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‘The Tower’ in Initiation

November 2, 2012

Vanity brings Occult Peril

The lesson of “The Tower”

by Madeline Montalban

Some students of Occultism may be compared to Don Quixote, who was of noble intention but muddled mind, who tilted at windmills, saw enemies where none existed, and “recognized” ignorant peasant girls as princesses. That state of confusion may happen to anyone when they reach a certain stage on the path of magical initiation.

In passing from the Hermit to the Hanged Man, and having seen our first, naive, conception of the universe and its laws turned topsy-turvy, we are forced to adopt, or find, a new philosophy. In doing this there lies a danger. Puffed up with the little knowledge and power we have gained, we can become vain; and once vanity seizes the mind, complete confusion follows. Knowledge is applied wrongly, and the result can be our own ruin. This ordeal, which is a major initiation, is represented by No. 16 in the Tarot – the Tower struck by lightning.

The Tower represents man, his achievements, his possessions, his status in the eyes of the world, and his own soul.

[I suspect the capital letter is a mistake. Miss Montalban means that the tower in the picture represents man and his achievements, etc. T.W.]

All of these can be destroyed at one fell swoop, save the soul. This should rise like the phoenix from the ashes of life’s annihilation, be stronger and better from the trials through which it has passed, and rebuild life, career and everything else anew; and be more glorious than before. After life’s structure has been razed to the ground, there should come the rebuilding, assisted by occult inspiration and help (No. 7, The Chariot); but if the student-magician is found wanting in basic understanding, this does not happen.

No. 16, or the Hand of God, to give it an old title, is that stage on the occult way of which so many veiled warnings have been given – such as those muddled warnings about “dabbling in this or that, bringing trouble and destroying the operator”. Warnings that, improperly conveyed, can only put off the true seeker and frighten the timid. (Of course, the timid should not be in Occultism at all. It needs moral courage and even daring to attempt to use the occult secrets on the mundane plane.)

So far we can go with impunity; powers come fairly easily, knowledge seems to flow in on us; but the moment we start using these powers in the wrong way they turn on us, and raze our structures to the ground. We thus become our own executioners, and bring about our own ruin through ambition allied to vanity. It is man’s vanity in the powers he has learned that is the danger. There he is, perched on a lofty tower, above his fellow-men because he has learned certain occult secrets. The world, he thinks, is his oyster; he will wrench from it the pearl he desires, and impose his own will upon it.

Now he comes into conflict with the occult laws. They help man to soar; but his intention must be to make this world a better place. They can, and will, raise him to the zenith of power providing he holds this ideal before his eyes. But once let him falter in his dedication, once let him put himself and self-glorification before the ideal of helping the world, and those same powers will topple him to utter ruin.

The Tower uses each man’s personal weakness to destroy him. Hitler’s intuition was reliable until he reached No. 16 – then it failed him. He turned East – and the evils of Nazism were broken on the battlefields of Russia. The man who misuses the strange magnetism that Occultism gives him to sway the emotions of women and subject them to his will, is eventually destroyed through some woman. The man greedy for riches is allowed to amass them, and then the possession of those riches becomes the sword that strikes him down. Or, with millions at his command, he is placed in a position where no sum of money can help him. The ordeal of No. 16 is this. A man must face his own weakness, and conquer it or be conquered by it. If the latter, he has been found wanting.

Those who are not defeated rise from the depths to soar again, to rebuild life anew; and here they have the help of the Chariot. To those who are now faced with the ruin of all they have built or striven for, I offer the consolation brought by No. 7 in the Tarot the Chariot. This represents help from above, occult inspiration, and the path to the sun. An anecdote may make clear the devastation of No. 16, and the help that can follow from No. 7.

Some years ago I knew a woman who embarked on the occult path, and gained knowledge and power. She rose to great heights in her chosen profession, and when she had gained the peak, regarded herself as invincible. She had the adulation of the world, riches, fame and personal beauty. Having got so far vanity took over: “Magic has brought me here,” she said; “it will keep me here.” In vain did wiser people warn her that she had been allowed to acquire all those things because, in her capacity as a public idol, she could teach by example.

Magical prowess and powers can be compared to an express train. Pull it up dead and the coaches telescope. Stop your magical aims short of their true goal – the uplifting of humanity and the betterment of the world –and you’ve tried to cheat the gods. Their answer is swift – and deadly.

The higher you climb, the harder the fall; and that woman’s fall was hard indeed. She was stricken with polio. She was unable to follow her profession, and completely reliant on her doctors and nurses to feed her. The years passed and her fortune dwindled. The world forgot her.

A sorry story, if it had ended there, but the lady was a true Occultist. “I went wrong somewhere,” she said: “I must find out why this has happened to me.”

Lying there she worked it out. “Destiny had to strike at my physical body to pull me up short,” she decided, “but it has left my mind unimpaired. I’ve a lot to teach, and this is where I begin.”

From that moment No. 7, The Chariot, took over. She took the reins of her destiny into her own hands, and received help from above in the way of inspiration. She began to dictate her memoirs to a friend, who typed them. They were published and gained praise. Then she began to write books in which the motif was Occultism.

Physically helpless as she was, she used what was left to her – her mentality – to rebuild her life. Gradually her body responded to this new impetus. She recovered to a large extent. Though she can never go back to her former profession again, under another name the world knows her as a great and powerful novelist. She is teaching, simply and by her novels, the occult secrets, and thus helping others to sort out their tangled lives. That is an example of the Chariot raising the individual after the “punishment” of the Tower.

As I have said before, occult initiation is not a matter of ceremonies behind locked doors. Life itself is the Great Initiator, and whether or not you are an occult student, the ordeals you pass through in life can be compared to initiations. We are on this earth to learn, and learn we must.

To those now facing the ruins of their life, who find it shattered and in bits, there is a message. You can rebuild. Not in the way your life was before the crash, but in some new way. What is past is gone. Let it go. Look within yourself and see what is left to you. Use it to rebuild, and with the desire and the effort will come inspiration and help from above. The gods are just – not cruel. After the punishment comes help to rebuild. Be strong, and grasp the reins of your life again.

And about that, and the way No. 7, The Chariot, can help all who are suffering, I shall write next month.

[Published in Prediction, December, 1956]


From → tarot

  1. Auntie I have learned many things from your posts till now and I would like to ask you if you you have published a book and if you have where I can find it

    • Nefella,

      I haven’t published a book. I only began to share my knowledge via my blog a dozen or so years ago at a point in my life where I felt I could spare the time to do so. A busy life has kept me from writing a book. Everything I have written on the tarot is somewhere on the blog.


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