Change, and Not a Moment Too Soon: Meditations on The Tower

Doctor Who was a staple of my childhood. When other heroes would die of their wounds, the titular Doctor instead regenerates into a brand new form — complete with brand new face (and brand new teeth). The first time I saw The Doctor, my first Doctor, regenerate — it was devastating. Gone was Tom Baker and his unfailing grin and scarf, and in his place this sporty but kind blonde fellow, Peter Davison. When he regenerated years later, I was much more attuned and adjusted to it. I even half-laughed when his new incarnation sat up and answered his companion’s questions about what happened to him with “Change, my dear — and not a moment too soon.” That informs a lot of my feelings about one of the most troublesome cards in the Tarot — the Tower.

The Tower, By Pamela Coleman Smith (d 1951) — a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley (http://home.comcast.net/~vilex/) for the public domain, and retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot (see note on that page regarding source of images)., PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31022074

If you asked the Tarot a yes or no question, and you pulled this card — the answer is a resounding No. Beyond knowing that it represents ‘utter destruction of edifices we thought were solid’ it’s really hard to sit and contemplate this card for long stretches of time, but it’s worth it when you do.

The Tower is also called “The Blasted Tower” in some decks, and across all of them stark imagery of a tower being struck by lightning is pretty key. In older French decks, this card was called “de Foudre” for the lightning and not its victim (which was a tree). You see, the sudden, ultimate power of lightning is key to the meaning and symbology in the card. The lightning topples the tower’s crown, representative of unseating power. People fall from the Tower’s heights as flames erupt from its top. The tower itself was precariously perched on an outcropping of rock — it was never stable to begin with.

This struck tower was never as solid or safe as it appeared, the lightning was a catalyst to being able to recognize that. That’s a vital point — while the Tower does represent the destruction of prior ideals, they were never solid to begin with. It can be incredibly painful to divest ourselves of things that feel right to us, but aren’t.

Meditating on the Tower is uncomfortable, and it’s meant to be. Like maranasati, or other meditative forms that have the meditator bring death into focus, it can be difficult, troublesome, and psychically painful to consider the world divested of our comfortable illusions. It’s important for growth that we remember to not get too wrapped up in the stories that we tell ourselves. Our personal growth requires that we recognize the stories, feelings, and institutions that no longer serve us and move forward from them, and the Tower is one of many ways this growth can manifest.

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Jamie Toth, The Somewhat Cyclops

I write about independent movies, tarot, consumer safety, and more. Contact me: somewhatcyclops@gmail.com