The Scary Cards: The Tower


The Tower

I thought I had it covered. Everything was safe and sound but it only took a few words from someone I didn’t know to make me feel like I had been struck by lightening. I spent the next week panicked and rushing to fix my mistake. I called lawyers and banks and signed papers and lost sleep. In the end I got my problem fixed but what if lightening hadn’t struck my “secure” tower and sent me tumbling and scrambling. I could have had so much more trouble and would have fallen out of a bigger tower.   It would have hurt so much more.

Our two friends are having a rough time in this card. They have build a big beautiful tower on a hill to protect themselves. They think they are safe in their special world. Look at their fancy clothes and one even has a crown. The tower has a crown because they make their ideas, status, theology, philosophy, politics king and they don’t need to see anyone elses’ point of view or experience. As Dr. Phil would say “How’s that working for you?” From the looks of it not so good.

If you look closely the tower is built on a tall hill that is eroding, There is no door to exit or escape ladder. The only way they have to leave is to fall out the window. When you put yourself or someone else on a pedestal and are sure of your position or block yourself from other possibilities then a correction is coming. You have a ways to go on the path to enlightenment and you can’t go any further stuck in an ivory tower, with your monumental ego. So the universe gives you a swift kick in the pants with a bolt of lightening to straighten you out.

But if you look around our falling heroes you see the little pieces of flame all around. Those are yods, the tiniest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. In the Tarot they represent blessings, God’s omnipresence. And in this card there are 22 little blessings, one for each of the major cards. Even in the terrifying moments of life there are blessings all around and the blessings will be there when we pick up the pieces of our humiliation.

The three scary cards have three different messages we need to heed and three hard lessons we have to learn on our hero’s journey through life. Death says it is time to transform and leave behind what is no longer serving you. The Devil is about facing your shadow, unlovable side and breaking free from unconscious bondage. The Tower is about a correction to bring our lives into alignment with our true self.

Every morning this week I’ve been reading a chapter from Thomas Moore’s book A Religion of One’s Own. In it, he reveals the true purpose of the tower experience: “Breakdown becomes breakthrough. The ego structures fall part and divinity once more comes into view.”


The Scary Cards: The Devil

The Devil

Every Christmas my family likes to see a wonderful production of Dickens’ Christmas Carol at the University of Tennessee theater. It doesn’t feel like Christmas with out some ”bah-humbug” from our favorite curmudgeon Ebeneezer Scrooge. Early in the play is the scariest part when his dead business partner Jacob Marley comes to visit Ebeneezer with a dire warning. Jacob is gray, dirty and exhausted for he is caring a huge chain around his neck that trails after him, making loud clanging noises. Jacob delivers the memorable line “I wear the chain I forged in life, I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” Jacob goes on to tell Ebeneezer ”the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full and heavy and long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored on it since. It is a ponderous chain.”

Ebeneezer and Jacob

On the Devil card the man and woman are wearing ponderous chains attached the devil’s perch. Like Ebeneezer they have forged these chains with their own poor choices, selfishness, addictions and ignorance. We saw this couple as the Lovers in card 6 where they were happy and ready for adventures together but by card 15, The Devil, they are in big trouble and have work to do to get back on the path of enlightenment.

When we first encounter this card the Devil is the overwhelming scary creature we have been taught to fear. We were told that he controls us and tempts us to be cruel and self-absorbed, vindictive and manipulative. But the poor guy, he is just a personification of illusion and we have made him ugly so we can forget he is ourselves. He is our shadow, the part of ourselves we don’t want to see or own. It is time to stop making him the scapegoat for our misdeeds. How many children have been scared by threats of the devil when he is a caricature of adult’s control issues.

So let’s put this scary beast in his place by first kicking him off his tiny platform and get these poor lovers to take off their chains which are loose around their necks. But you can see by their tails they have given into their animal nature. They must face their fears—fears of losing money, status, relationships. They must face their shadow—power, bigotry, manipulation, shaming, vindictiveness, domination, stubbornness, greed, jealousy. They must face their addictions—-control, substance abuse, materialism, gluttony.

When we cling to these self-defeating desires and patterns we feel we are owned by the Devil but it is our lower self running the show. This bondage to the dark side or our nature doesn’t bring us happiness or contentment. It just brings sorrow and pain to ourselves, our loved ones and the world. So much of the suffering in this world we have brought on ourselves by allowing “the Devil” in our nature allow us to lead unconscious lives.

So take time and ponder your ponderous chains, look at your shadow and see what you can bring into the light of your consciousness and leave behind. Fortunately Jacob Marley gave Ebeneezer the antidote for his misery and fate:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge… “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

So take Marley’s sage advice and get down to the business of mankind and begin to heal yourself so that you can get on with the business of being kind to man. And I don’t know about you but I’m terribly afraid of ghosts and I’d prefer none visit me in the middle of the night to get me to straighten out my life.

Resources on the Shadow

Owning Your Own Shadow    Robert A. Johnson

Romancing The Shadow    Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf

Meeting The Shadow–The hidden power of the dark side of human nature

Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams