Key 16 – The Tower

Tarot Keys 1-29-06 009 The Tower #16The primary attribute of the previous Key 15 is bondage, self-inflicted bondage. How do we remove the chains that bind us? As we explore Key 16 The Tower,  we begin to realize that its function is Spiritual Awakening. Here we find the two chained characters of the previous Key falling upside down from a tower! Not looking good for them! The male represents the conscious mind and the female the subconscious mind.  So what is being played out here? And where does the lightning come from?

This Key represents the second stage of spiritual unfoldment. We are awakening from the dream of sense, from the nightmare of bondage. All that we see is not all that there is. Key 15 made us aware of the nature of our bondage and thus provided us with the perception that it is, after all, only a dream. Key 16 is a picture of destruction, but important to note is that the source of the destructive power is the Sun, and its disintegrating force comes forth as a flash of lightning.

imgresWe’re referring to a flash from super-consciousness, which constitutes our first awakening. It is the first moment of clear vision. It is the turning point for each person, where they are never quite the same as they were before. It is something like the hatching of a chick. Once the shell is broken, the chick can never return to the egg. It has entered a new phase of existence. Another life opens before it. So it is with man. At the moment of sudden illumination pictured by Key 16, he receives an initiation, and from then on he belongs to a new order of creatures.

With a little observation you will find that destruction is the foundation of existence. Our entire lives are spent in the disintegration of forms for the sake of building up other forms. Power is released by disintegration. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cars we ride in, are all in the process of destruction from the very moment we put them into use. In the very act of destruction itself lies all the utility that can be extracted from any of these things.


In the experience of spiritual unfoldment, awakening is distinctly a destructive process. All the customary wrong thinking and wrong acting must go. The false sense of personal will, of personal autonomy, of personal self-action, must be destroyed. Not a comfortable process!! When one is forced to recognize the truth that some of his most cherished beliefs are false, the readjustment is not easy. Yet the wise in every age have testified that this destruction is essentially a gathering of materials for a grander structure.

The first chapter of the Gospel of St. John says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. That which has been made was life in Him, and the life was the light of men.” You have learned that this Power is not only the source of the forces used in reproduction, integration and creation, but know now that from it springs also the forces manifest in the opposites of these.

imagesThe practical occultist has to learn that he cannot hope to reach any goal he may have set for himself without first breaking down the conditions in which he finds himself when he formulates his desire. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. To release these chains that bind us, we must learn how to break them. And, the time to begin this process is now, not some vague time in the future. You’ve already made a good start! You are aware of your limitations and you’re making an effort to transcend them.

Your first step is to apply in your daily life the principles represented by the Tarot Keys, so as to build these principles into the structure of your own being. In the Yoga classes that I attend there is always the final pose called shavasana, or corpse pose. You lie on your back and are still, allowing your mind to be still, too, so that your body absorbs the class.  When you arise to leave your body is a new structure, it can be nothing less! The subconscious mind runs our bodies at the direction of our conscious mind.

Tarot Keys 1-29-06 002 The Magician #1Start with the basics. The number 16 shows you the way. The principle essential to the work as represented by Key 6 The Lovers is right discrimination. Apply this principle through acts of concentration, as demonstrated by Key 1 The Magician. Concentration is the placing of your attention on an object, alive (like your body in a Yoga class, or plants, or animals) or inanimate, so that it may reveal itself to you. Not Googling it, not looking it up in a book, but letting it speak to you, in person. And it will! You will find that each day’s experience brings you some measure of the awakening pictured here in Key 16. Superficial observation will not suffice. You must give attention to the meaning of your thoughts, your desires and your actions the same as you would when you place your attention on an object. Thus you apply the principle of limitation to overcome limitation.

imgresAs you become proficient in concentration, you will rarely place yourself in embarrassing situations by rash and unconsidered action. You’ll think before you act, and then you’ll act wisely. The planet Mars is related to Key 16 through the Hebrew letter Peh, the letter of this Key. In exoteric (outer) astrology Mars is the planet of war and rash action. Yet it is the driving force behind all successful activity. The way the Mars force manifests in us depends on whether we control it and make use of its driving power, or whether we permit it to control us, creating rash and foolish activity.

imgresThe Mars force is the driving energy of desire force. Control of desire is not repression. No man without powerful desires and emotions ever attains to the heights of mastery. The repression of the Mars force causes havoc and terrific destruction. So how does this work? What do we need to do to find the balance necessary to control and manifest our desires? The channels through which the desire force finds expression in us are normally under our conscious control. It is perfectly natural to effect this control. This is already part of our nature. Key 1 The Magician shows how, and note that he wears a red cloak, the color indicating the Mars force. Formulate your desires, using intelligent discrimination, and then bring them into manifestation by concentration. Make your mental images of the desired results sharp and clear, so that subconsciousness will receive definite impressions. The the activity of the dynamic Mars force will make your dreams come true.

imagesThere is a tradition that this Key refers to the fall of the Tower of Babel, at which time human speech is said to have become a confusion of tongues.  The Hebrew letter Peh (P, Ph, F) means “the mouth as the organ of speech.” It therefore symbolizes power of utterance. The letter even looks like it has a small tongue. The old Bible story indicates that it is a mistaken use of language to try to reach heaven by means of a structure of words. The correct use of language is to control the forces of nature by making words the tools of organized thought.

Let’s see how Key 16 supports these principles in symbology and colors. The grey stone tower sits at the top of a mountain. The mountain is the same earthy color as the Deceiver in the previous Key. The tower consists of  22 layers of brick. The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, thus it represents a structure of human speech.  In some earlier decks this Key was called “The House of God”. Grey is the color of wisdom. So here you have a House of God whose foundation is on the earth, just as the earthy Deceiver intimates that all you see with your senses is all that there is. Therefore, it is a structure based on human error and ignorance.

Tarot Keys 1-29-06 009 The Tower #16This is the same as with our personalities, which are structures that incorporate our false notions, but are at the same time Temples of the Living God. The limitations, inadequacies and diseases in our bodies are caused by the influence on subconsciousness of our false thinking, expressed in erroneous words. The tower is an elaboration of superficial observation, traditional race-thought, false reasoning, and an erroneous theory of will.

On the other hand, we see 22 flaming Yods suspended in the air. The Yods are used to stand for the letters of the Hebrew alphabet because every Hebrew letter is said to be an aspect of the Yod. Ten are on one side of the tower and twelve are on the other side. The 10 represent the Tree of Life and the 12 represent the signs of the zodiac. Thus we have represented the sum-total of the cosmic forces, and they also represent the elements (fire, air, earth and water) of the Creative Word, as well as the elements entering into the consciousness of human personality. By hanging them in space the Key is stating that none of these forces has a physical foundation. This is the reverse of the rocky foundation of the tower.

79The average person thinks of his life as having a physical basis. He supposes it to be sustained by food, air, water, and the various physical forces of his environment. Ageless Wisdom says just the opposite. Thus it declares that instead of life being supported by the conditions of the physical plane, these conditions are supported by life. It is true that certain definite physical conditions must exist in order that the functions of human personality may be exercised here on earth. It is not true that these conditions either cause or support those functions. Ageless Wisdom holds causation to be vital, rather than physical. In this day, this is not fashionable. Neither was the conception that the earth was round in the days of Columbus. But, it is demonstrably true. It is not any less true because relatively few people are at present able to make the demonstration.

The lightning flash of true perception always makes itself felt in the physical body, because there must be a period of physical adjustment before our bodies can be vehicles for the expression of the higher levels of consciousness. The flash comes from a solar disk, to show that although it is the destructive agent, it is a phase of the Life Power. The disk is in the same corner of the Key as that of the Sun in the Fool Key.The source of the flash is the lamp of Key 9 The Hermit. The zigzag form of the flash is a reminder of the Tree of Life and replicates the movement of the Life Power among the ten aspects on that diagram.

imgresThe crown is a symbol of will power because the Hebrew noun Kether, meaning crown, is a synonym for “will.” The crown here is a false crown of material attainment. Mankind has come a long way and attained considerable success from an earthly standpoint. But, just as the Tower of Babel attempted to storm heaven’s gate by building an earthly structure up to a far-off God, man should instead be preparing the temple of his own vehicle so that it becomes fit to hold the indwelling God already there.

imagesRight knowledge begins with a flash of perception, which makes us realize that no detail of our personal experience can be separated from the total expression of the Life Power’s activity. However brief this flash of realization may be, it overthrows the notion of separate personal will, and it also disrupts mental structures based on the error that we are living our lives in perpetual antagonism to the universe, and to the lives of our neighbors. This lie is behind every murder.

The falling figures represent the two modes of personal consciousness. The flash of inspiration upsets all our former conceptions of the nature of personal consciousness, and reverses our way of thinking. In Key 16 the figures are clothed, because they hide their true nature from each other while man remains in a state of ignorant separateness. The man wears both red and blue, to show a mixture of self-conscious and sub-conscious activities. The woman is shod with red, but wears a blue robe. Furthermore she is crowned with a crown similar to that of the High Priestess. In false knowledge, subconscious motives are permitted to dominate the personality. Thus people excuse themselves for unintelligent action by saying, “I can’t help it; that’s the way I feel.” This domination of personality by emotion is overcome by right knowledge, as is the concealment and division between self-consciousness and subconsciousness.


Remember that a fundamental activity of the Mars force in human personality is the stimulation of desire. Most of us are beset by a veritable mob of miscellaneous desires. Many of them are unimportant, weak and ephemeral. An enlightened being is one of comparatively few desires, but they are deep, powerful and one-pointed. Such a person shoots straight for his mark, permitting nothing to turn him aside from his purpose. His thoughts dwell upon it. His activity is directed to its attainment.

Select your most important desire. Do not allow less important ones to interfere with it. Yielding to the influence of small desires dissipates energy. Though easy to describe, this practice is difficult.  But, keep in mind, desire control is the basis of mastery. You can make it easier through right discrimination. Then your subconscious mind will happily bring to you all that you need!