Wirth, Oswald – 16 The Tower
Type of Spiritual Experience
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The original Lightning struck Tower was based on the story of the Tower of Babel, but Wirth reminds us by his use of colouring that it represents any person or system that sets itself up as a ‘false prophet’ in opposition to the Great Work. Pride comes before a fall.
A description of the experience
The Tarot of the Magicians – Oswald Wirth English translation 1985 Samuel Weiser.
First published in Paris in 1927 under the original title: Le Tarot, des lmagiers du Moyen Age
Arcana 16 presents us with the picture of a Lightning-struck Tower, a typical designation, for it is less a temple, a house of God, than a sacred building of a body mistakenly identified with God…………and only exists in relation to blind humanity which is… condemned to work without understanding.
…… His body grows in the spirit which animated the builders of the Tower of Babel, a ramshackle building of which arcana 16 presents a symbolically correct image. The bricks that it is built of are of an overall flesh colour to indicate that it is a question of a living construction endowed with sensitivity. On a large scale it is human society, and on a small scale it is the individual body of each one of us, that is to say a collection of cells born of each other to unite as organs, like the stones of a building which might be capable of creating themselves and fitting together in obedience to mysterious attractions.
There are four … openings: one door and three windows of which two let in light in the middle storey of the mind's abode, and the third, the upper chamber, with the ground floor being sufficiently well lighted by the door which stays open.
This is not all. At the very top of the Tower is a crenulated terrace, from which one can view the sky. A double architrave made up of two layers, first of green stones then of red bricks, supports the crown of the Temple. The dull green alludes to the mystic sentimentality, and red to warmth and generosity which lead to the beatific vision and to transcendental contemplation.
There is a risk in rising too high; we are warned of this by the thunderbolt from the Sun which takes the top off the Tower. The Sun here is a symbol of Reason which governs men and is opposed to their extravagant ideas. When we pursue a fanciful enterprise, the catastrophe is fatal.
….. What is unreasonable condemns itself to collapse. So much the worse for the ambitious man who takes so much trouble to rise very high, not suspecting that heights attract lightning.
The two characters in arcana 16 receive the punishment befitting their presumption; they are thrown headlong together with parts which have come away from the Tower. The first is a king who remains crowned in his fall; he represents the immortal spirit for whom the Tower was built.
The second character is dressed in red, for he is the Architect of the Tower, the constructor of the body which dies with him; so on the nape of the neck he receives a mortal blow.
Woe to the vain occultist who imagines himself to be served by invisible entities! There are therefore, two alienations on his part: he has alienated himself in the true sense of the word and moreover leaves himself open to losing his reason, the catastrophe which threatens him in arcana 16.
So authoritarian dogmas are born, opaque crusts which imprison and disfigure living truth. Hence also human rapacity, the source of all despotisms, which are on a small or large scale, perhaps with regard to this intensive exploitation of the earth and of human energies on which this present age of ours prides itself. How can one not understand the systematic reproach of all moderation that leads us towards a terrifying social cataclysm? May our pride be humiliated before the Wisdom of the Tarot!
Materialization. Condensing attraction, radical egoism in action. Restrictive hoarding. Spirit imprisoned in matter. …….Pride, presumption, pursuit of fancies. Materialism which attaches itself to coarse appearances, greed to acquire, mania for material wealth. Megalomania, excessive enlarging of what one possesses. Insatiable ambitions and appetites. Excessive conquests.
Unreasonable exploitation. Excess and misuse leading to rebellion and upheavals. Narrow dogmatism, the source of disbelief. False alchemy eager for common gold. Merited failure of all senseless enterprise. Punishment resulting from excess. Illness, disorganization, filth, hardening, putrefation of all that was supple and living. Ruin of empires established and maintained by brute force.
The collapse of intolerant Churches that proclaim themselves infallible. The error of the presumptious person who undertakes things beyond his capacity and who does not know when to stop.