The Tower of Babel

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” –John 1:1

For most of my life, my greatest passion has been the search for knowledge.

A lonely child, I found refuge in books: in fiction, tales about foreign lands and fantastic creatures; in practical books about science, the earth, and life processes; in languages, philosophy, religion; in the paranormal, occult, and mysterious. You name it, I had to know about it.

I often felt like everyone else had gotten the instruction manual on this thing called Life, and I was the only one left empty-handed.

And so I took this business very seriously. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Somewhere out there was the answer, one day I would find the truth behind it all, and everything would make sense.

In college, I studied literature and languages, and later went to graduate school for a master’s degree in Rhetoric & Composition. I developed an obsession with epistemology, the study of truth, language, and what we can know.

Eventually I started to think that maybe Socrates had it right all along, and the answer was that we truly can know nothing;  but my obsession now had a life of its own, and the demon inside me demanding answers ate every piece of text and trivia in its path, never satisfied, always hungry for more.

I was building my very own Tower of Babel, and it was destroying me. Every Word was another brick in this tower, growing higher and higher into the sky, and I thought that in this way I would one day touch God.

This tower was not built of truth, but of ego. It was a fortress meant to protect me from this reality: that I was terrified, confused, lost and alone.

As all I had built crumbled in a flash, I saw that each little piece of knowledge, each little fact, each bit of data was a line of defense against the world, against chaos, and against life.

It was awareness that I was seeking, and consciousness that I needed.

Words can be a useful tool in directing thought, in guiding the mind to greater consciousness. The word is creative, it is generative, it directs the manifestation of life, but it is not life itself.

XVI. The Tower

The Tower

Keywords for The Tower


In the image on the card, we are confronted with a shocking scene. In the dark of the night, from amidst ominous gray clouds, a lightning bolt strikes unexpectedly. The tower is shattered in a flash, breaking apart the structures on which the King and the Queen are dependent, sending them flying out from their place of safety into the harsh cold of the night. 

The Tower represents our ego, and the structures we have built into our personalities to protect ourselves, as represented here by the man (our conscious mind) and the woman (our subconsciousness). 

The thunderbolt shows an experience of sudden “enlightenment,” which throws off the crown once worn by the rigid, egoic elements of our personalities, exposing what is contained within.

The two figures here are not just exposed, or needlessly endangered as they are thrown out into the night–they are also liberated

The ego may ultimately be protective in nature, but it is in many ways also a prison, keeping us trapped in past adaptations to our environment, limiting us through its insistence on outdated behavior patterns. To a large extent this is what inhibits us from fully and accurately experiencing the world around us as it is. 

The Tower Interpretation

When the Tower comes up in a reading, it will often refer to a period of upheaval, instability, and unexpected change. It can mark a period of time when we experience a shocking alteration] to our usual circumstances. 

We may find ourselves confronted by the loss of a job, the breakup of a relationship, or other similarly disturbing reversals of fortune. It can also signify the danger of collective traumas, such as an economic downturn, war, natural disasters, or a health crisis such as a pandemic. 

As a result, we find that often many people are troubled or disturbed by the appearance of the Tower in a reading. It is not an unreasonable response, either—this card often does indeed signal a profoundly disruptive change to the way we have been living. This type of change is usually far from easy, and can often be accompanied by intense discomfort, emotional pain, or distress.

However, the process implied by the Tower is not an unequivocally destructive one. Often, we fail to ignore the small warning signs that crop up in our day-to-day living until it is too late. 

Sometimes, it requires a shocking breakdown of the status quo before we are compelled to seek a meaningful change in our life circumstances. After all, the old must be destroyed before anything new can be created.

The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world.

Hermann Hesse

As a result, some of the more positive meanings associated with this card have to do with the themes of freedom, liberation, and enlightenment. 

If we are willing to go through the painful experience of allowing our illusions to be shattered, we may find that we come out the other side of it with greater wisdom, understanding, courage and power. 

The potential exists here to use the experiences indicated by this card in the service of a more authentic life, one lived with greater integrity and a deeper sense of alignment with one’s true potential. 

Although it is usually far from easy, we often will ultimately find that we can utilize the liberated energy set free by the lightning bolt of truth as the raw material for what we intend to create for ourselves next.

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