"When Beast's black hue has vanished in a black smoke, the sages rejoice from the bottom of their hearts."
- The Book of Lambspring, The Hermetic Museum (pg. 278)
The Tower represents the oven of alchemy in which the elixir is prepared. Alchemists often referred to their oven as a "tower," and alchemical art portrayed the oven as a small tower. The images here are inspired by the Philosophia Reformata (1622) by Mylius Johann Daniel. It is a triple still, called a tribikos, mounted on a small oven. The vessels on top are called alembics, from the original name of a stillhead, "ambix," through the Arabic "al-anbiq."
The alchemical process represented by the Tower is the second or greater separation, or dissolution. This is a higher order of the first dissolution, initiated by the High Priestess.
The Tower card represents a breakthrough from the coagulated darkness (nigredo) of The Devil. The darkness is still present in the brooding black of the sky and the gray clouds that ascend from the fire inside the oven. But the fire has warmed the alchemical solution within, past the blackening stage, to a liquified form.
Spiritual illumination in the form of lightning--divine intervention--strikes the oven, cracking it and threatening to destroy it; simultaneously, the black sky of the nigredo is cut in two by the white light of the second stage, the albedo. This is a moment of shattering intensity, at once exhiliarating and threatening. If the oven cannot withstand the illumination, all may be lost. The intensity of the strike separates the solution within the tower into the masculine red and the feminine white. The white liquid will form the white stone to make silver; the red liquid will form the red stone to make gold.
For the two figures at the base of the tower, the moment is one of enlightenment and exhiliaration. The man is the alchemist and the woman the soror mystica ("mystic sister"), the female alchemist who is the feminine balance to the masculine polarity that is crucial to the success of alchemy. They are garbed in blue and pale violet, respectively, the colors of the celestial realms. They kneel in positions of exaltation, as though their prayers have been answered by the falling drops. The lightning has opened a gateway to the higher realms, and is a ladder of the planets by which souls can ascend to heaven.
The Tower also corresponds to the human body, which, on an esoteric level, is the real alchemical oven. The enlightenment will be achieved through a sexual-spiritual union.
The number of the Tower, sixteen, reduces to seven (one plus six equals seven), which is a magical and mystical number, and is the number of the ladder of the planets, which forms the stairway to heaven.
Tarot wisdom: The Tower signifies a breakthrough, a sudden inspiration, a flash of creativity, an opportunity that must be seized. It may also signify an upheaval in life, such as the loss of a job, a change in relationship, or an unexpected move. However, The Tower shows strength; though the athanor is cracked, it does not break. Thus, if the card points to disruption, we can be secure in the knowledge that we have the security in life and relationships with our immediate family that will enable us to weather it successfully.