The image of the Tower in the Tarot Major Arcana is one of the scariest in the deck, even more so than its closest competitors- Death and The Devil. It speaks of catastrophic and sudden change, often through a totally unexpected and massively destructive mechanism, resulting in a fall from a great height.
On September 11th, we watched the Tower play out on our television screens, with all the elements of surprise, disbelief and ultimate horror brought together in one cataclysmic moment. A symbol of confident world commerce, the World Trade Center, was turned into twisted rubble in the space of an hour.
The terrifying image of this ancient card has come to life, live and in color.
Over the weeks and months to come, various pundits and talking heads and professional writers will sift through the rubble of Americas self confidence and security asking all the usual questions: How and why had it come to this? Who would be sick and angry enough to do such a thing? How could someone hate us so? What can we do about it? Should there be a war? Will there be a war?
One of my Tarot books sums up the Tower in a single sentence: "Disruption will bring enlightenment in its wake." The smoke has not yet cleared from the site of the tragedy, and the government is marshalling the dogs of war, but there are also other voices calling for restraint and an intelligent discovery of the facts and factors of this terror.
Unlike the Tarot card, which has lightning and God doing the deed, our towers were destroyed by hate-poisoned people who saw our culture and our policies as a threat to their way of life. I am sure that they would call themselves agents of God, but no concept of God would ever deign to become involved in the religious, cultural or ideological differences of humanity. That would be like having the Attorney General breaking up a kindergarten fight.
"God is on our side", both sides howl, lost in the madness of righteous religious fervor. But the God they both invoke is the same one- just with different names. How can such a Being be on both sides of a religious conflict? "How could God allow this to happen?" others wail, forgetting that humanity, not God, is ultimately responsible for what fate befalls us.
America- and ultimately the world- is at a crossroads. We can plunge headlong into a 20th century style war and guarantee that we will see many variations of the September tragedy, or we can carefully sift through the debris of hubris, error and religious fundamentalism and learn something from it. One path will drag the world down into chaos and destruction. The other will make us rethink our way of life and turn the world from its course of terror.
The people who orchestrated this terror must be completely neutralized, and the poisonous seeds of hatred they have planted within the minds and hearts of their various countrymen must be uprooted. The concept of holy war- be it the Islamic concept or the Judeo-Christian vengeance, must be stripped of its rhetoric and shown as the hateful oxymoron it truly is. There is nothing holy about war of any sort, and no religious path is any better than any other.
I write this from a unique and unusual viewpoint. I am a military veteran, and also a magus. I am a Warrior and a Mystic in the same little female package. I have seen war, terrorism, and its aftermath up close and the scars run deep. But I have also pondered the roots of the Universe, the nature of its Creator, and the hearts, souls, and fates of mankind.
Although I am a warrior, I do not condone warfare, and believe that it should only be used as a last resort. And although I am a mystic and mage, I am not a pacifistic peacenik, either. Rather, I stride the line, taking things on a case-by-case basis. Nuking an enemy that is more like dust than an army is not the answer. Nor is the passive turning of the other cheek. This is not our dads war- this is more like a hunt. They got off the first shot. There are no noncombatants, no front, no borders. We are all targets, and conversely, we are also all hunters.
The lesson of the Tower teaches us that major downfalls change us permanently, just as the skyline of New York will be forever changed. And it teaches us that hindsight holds many lessons for us; and that we must learn from our errors, or we are doomed to repeat them.
But it also teaches us that we shall emerge from the dust and rubble stronger than before, and that if we work carefully and diligently, we can change hearts and minds, and ultimately the world.
So mote it be.
16 September, 2001
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