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The Tower — Spiritual Message of the Day

July 10, 2011

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” — Proverbs 16:18

Tower card -- Tarot of the Masters
An obvious connotation of the Tower card, with its symbolism of the perils of hubris, is the praise of humility and condemnation of pride and arrogance. Even if it went no further than that, it would present a valuable lesson, but of course there’s more.

According to an article in Wikipedia:

Aristotle defined hubris as shaming the victim, … merely for your own gratification. … As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.

And so we can see in the Tower card an admonition against casting someone else down in order to gain the illusory feeling of pulling ourselves up. Ironically, the problem here is a lack of pride, which may seem a bit confusing until we remember that this word has more than one meaning. Pride, as a synonym for hubris, means an inflated opinion of one’s own importance, but it can also mean healthy self-respect and self-esteem. With a true sense of self-worth, we don’t have to shame other people in order to feel better about ourselves. In fact, the more we realize our true, divine Self, the more we want to bring others up along with us, not cast them down.

Hubris also has the connotation of an affront to the gods. Although the ancient Greeks generally used the word in terms of violations against other people, perhaps the most famous illustration of hubris involves the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, which was about an affront against God. (See Genesis 11:4-9) In that story, men tried to build a tower to reach heaven. Some say their intent was to enter the kingdom of God and others say it was to storm the gates of heaven. In either case, God was not pleased. The popular version of the story (supported by a variety of ancient non-biblical sources) is that God destroyed the tower and disbursed the people building it by confounding their language. (The biblical version of the tale doesn’t mention the actual destruction of the tower.)

Conventional dualistic religion has interpreted this tale as a sign of the inherent separation of man and God, but another understanding of it (a non-dualistic view) is that striving to reach the Divine through purely and merely materialistic pursuits (tithing, building temples, etc.) is doomed to confusion and failure. Reuniting with the Divine is accomplished through the heart, not the hands.

Another message in the tale of the Tower of Babel can be inferred from the account of it by Flavius Josephus, in his First Century CE Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus claims that the tyrant who had the tower built tried to turn his people away from God by telling them that it was not through God that they would find happiness, but rather through their own strength and courage. Here it seems that the Tower is a metaphor for our happiness and fulfillment, and the message is that the effort to build that by ourselves is doomed. Instead, this effort only results in a loss of our sense of unity with our fellow man, as symbolized by the confusion of languages and disbursement of the people building the tower.

If you enjoy these words of spiritual advice from the cards, you will love my new Tarot book called The Soul’s Journey: Finding Spiritual Messages in the Tarot.

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