The Tower of Destruction

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed…
He has scattered those who have proud thoughts in their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And he has exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty-handed.
(Luke i, 46-48, 51-53)

He who exalts himself will be abased,
And he who humbles himself will be exalted.
(Luke xiv, 11)

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.
(Mark iv, 26-27)

The Tower of Destruction
from the Tarot of Marseilles

Origen has written: “when we indulge (human appetites  to excess and offer no resistance, then the hostile power, seizing the opportunity of this first offense, incites us in every way, striving to extend the sins over a larger field; so that while we men supply the occasions and beginnings of our sins, the hostile powers spread them far and wide and if possible endlessly.”

As the fifteenth Arcanum is related to demonic evil, the sixteenth Arcanum is related to human evil, which does not come from outside, but has its origin in the human soul.

The unfortunate misunderstanding locating innate human evil in the body instead of in the soul is due to a tendency towards a materialistic interpretation of the Biblical story of paradise and the Fall.

 If paradise is understood as a place on the terrestrial or material plane, and if the Fall is similarly understood as having taken place on this plane, innate human evil cannot be understood otherwise than as biologically hereditary, i.e. that it is the flesh which bears it and transmits the seed of evil from generation to generation. Then it is the flesh which is the enemy of the soul and against which one has to struggle. Hence one “disciplines” it by flagellation, one weakens it by depriving it of food and sleep, and one scorns it and mistreats it in many ways—one is ashamed of one’s body.

Negative asceticism, directed against the body and not for celestial things, is the practical consequence of the materialistic interpretation of paradise and the Fall.

The Heart

Actually the body is a miracle of wisdom, harmony and stability, which does not merit scorn but rather the admiration of the soul. Can the soul boast of moral principles as stable as the body’s skeleton? Is it as indefatigable and as faithful in its sentiments as, for example, the heart, which beats day and night? Does the soul possess a wisdom comparable to that of the body, which knows how to harmonize such opposing things as water and fire, air and solid matter?

Remember that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, inhabited this flesh and that he honoured it to the point of uniting himself with it in the Incarnation. Similarly, if one is a Buddhist or Brahmanist, one should not forget that Buddha and Krishna, also, inhabited this flesh and that it served them well in the accomplishing of their respective missions.

The Cherubim  placed at the east of the garden of Eden, with a flaming sword  to guard the way to the tree of life, was there to turn away souls who committed the original sin.  The body had nothing to do with it.

According to Hermes Trismestigus’ The Virgin of the Cosmos, the Fall occurred prior to the terrestrial life of mankind. This  Hermetic doctrine was taken up by Pythagoras and Plato, and was represented in the first Christian centuries by Origen. Origen taught that God had created all souls equal, but that  some sinned in the spiritual world and had to leave for the earth: these are human souls. Others  in turning towards God, perfected themselves and became Angels.

The Cherubim with a flaming sword
Teresa Neumann

The doctrine that the pre-existent soul, in having sinned, took into itself the seed of evil in the pre-terrestrial sphere, has as a practical consequence positive asceticism, i.e. that of the soul’s atonement and reunion with God.

Positive asceticism does not struggle against the body but rather against the seed of evil in the soul, for the sake of its reunion with God. If, for example, the only food that Teresa Neumann had for decades was the host from the Sacrament of Holy Communion, this was not because she struggled against the body or despised it, but rather because she really lived from the Holy Sacrament without prejudicing the health of the body.

St. Martin gave his coat to a poor man not because he wanted to make his body suffer from the cold but rather because he wanted to put an end to the suffering of his neighbour, whose body was deprived of protection against the cold.

St. Anthony went into the desert not in order to make his body suffer but rather in order to be alone in the presence of God.

A monk renounces marriage not because he hates love, women and children but rather because he is fired by the love of God and there is no room in him for another love.

Positive asceticism is universal.  A scientist, who shuts himself in his room with a view to pursuing his studies, does so because he is taken up with the truth that he is seeking and not because he wants to deprive his body of sun, fresh air and other benefits or pleasures of the world outside his room.

A ballerina fasts much so as to keep her body slender and supple. A doctor interrupts his sleep during the night, if he is called out to a sick person. A missionary lives in a miserable hut in a village in Africa, not because he loves misery, but because he wants to share the lot of his brothers.

Innate Human Evil

According to the ancient Hindu wisdom of India, from the mouth of Shankara (ninth century A.D.), it is ahamkara, the sense of self, due to avidya, primordial ignorance, caused by maya’s power of projection (viksepa-shakti), associated with maya’s power of obscuration (avarana-shakti), which consists in the illusory identification of the true Self (atman) with the empirical self—as is clearly attested by the revelation of Scripture (shruti), direct authentic experience (pratyaksba), tradition (smirti) and inference (anumana).

It is desire (tanha), engendered by ignorance (avidya), which consists in attributing the central role to an illusory mental construction of the “self”, whilst the centre is nowhere, or everywhere, answers Buddhism

Adi Shankara
Kore Kosmu, the Virgin of the Cosmos

Among the Hermetic texts, it is Kore Kosmu which speaks in the most explicit way of the sin prior to the Fall (whose consequence and punishment was the Fall), where Isis says to Horus:

The souls, my son,  betook themselves to doing the work they had been bidden to do (by the Father)… They fashioned the race of birds…fishes… quadrupeds…reptiles…

“Thinking that they had now something great, they began to arrange themselves in presumptuous audacity, and transgress God’s commands; for they sought to vie with the gods in heaven, claiming nobility equal to theirs, in that the souls themselves had been made by the same Maker.

“And so they now began to overstep the bounds of their own divisions of the atmosphere; for they would not any longer abide in one place, but were ever on the move, and thought it death to stay in one abode…

“But when the souls did thus, my son, the Lord of all (so Hermes said…) failed not to mark it; and he sought a way to punish them. And so the Ruler and Master of all, thought good to fabricate the human organism, to the intent that in it the race of souls might through all time suffer punishment…”

The souls were entrusted with fashioning animals according to their celestial models in the zodiac; but instead of accomplishing this synthetic work, “they sought to find out of what ingredients it was compounded”, i.e. they gave themselves up to analysis, preferring analytical knowledge to creative synthetic work; this had the consequence that they changed their fundamental attitude from the vertical attitude (God-soul) to the horizontal attitude (soul-world) and “were ever on the move” in the horizontal, “since they thought it death to stay in one abode.”

The Goddess Isis and her Son Horus
Creation of Man
Byzantine mosaic in Monreale, Sicily (12th century)

The similarity, if not identity, of the  narratives of the Garden of Eden and the Kore Kosmu leaps out at one. In both it is a matter of the sin of “presumptuous audacity”; in both man follows the desire “to have his eyes opened and to be as a god”; in both man is entrusted with a creative magical task with regard to the animals; in both man changes his fundamental attitude from the vertical to the horizontal — with the consequences of incarnation being suffering, toil and death.

The differences between the narratives of the Kore Kosmu and Genesis are: 

  1.  Souls fashioning animals, man only giving them their names;
  2. “The places near the stars”, the garden of Eden;
  3. The multitude of souls, Adam and Eve;
  4. The composition of the mixture of the Father, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Kore Kosmu teaches, while Genesis  recounts the dawn of mankind and world history. Kore Kosmu wants to convince, whilst Genesis awakens profound memories of a remote past which slumber in the depths of the soul— memories from the “collective unconscious” as Jung would have said.

Swami Vivekananda 1863 -1902 Hindu monk, philosopher.
Black Elk 1863 - 1950 medicine man of the Oglala Lakota people
The mission of Hermeticism, which is the memory working in the depths of our souls is that of cultivating and maintaining the unforgettable garden of the dawn of mankind. There are “trees” to cultivate and maintain in this garden: the methods or ways of uniting earth and heaven—the rainbow of peace between that which is below and that which is above.
In India these methods or ways of union are called “yoga”: union through thought, feeling, conduct, love, the magic of the word, and through the will.
Black Elk, the guardian of the sacred pipe of the Sioux tribe, who went blind owing to his advanced age, revealed to Joseph Epes Brown (in The Sacred Pipe,) the seven traditional Sioux rites or ways of man’s union with the Father (the Great Spirit) and Mother (the earth), which constitute the soul of the spiritual life of the Red-Indian tribes from the Gulf of Mexico as far as Maine in the north and from Georgia as far as Idaho in the west.
The 12th century Ladder of Divine Ascent icon (Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt) of monks, led by John Climacus, ascending the ladder to Jesus.
But in so far as we—Christian Hermeticists—are concerned, the “trees” or “yogas” of the garden that we want to cultivate and maintain, are given to us in the “seven pillars of the house that Wisdom has built” (Proverbs ix, 1), i.e. the seven “days” of Creation (including the sabbath), the seven miracles of the Gospel of St. John, the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus Christ and, lastly, the seven Sacraments of the Church.
Could this be the River of the Garden of Eden?
Mysticism, gnosis, magic and Hermetic science are the four branches of the “river” which flows out of our garden of Eden “to water’—the “river” which “divided and became four rivers” (Genesis ii, 10).

Let us respect both Swami Vivekananda and Black Elk for their faithfulness in cultivating what providence certainly wants to entrust us with of the memory of this same garden. And let us not trouble ourselves about the lot of those whose culture and tradition differs from ours. God, who sees all, will certainly not forget to crown the head of every cultivator and faithful guardian of his garden.
Kore Kosmu speaks of the multitude of souls and Genesis of Adam and Eve. The difference is explained by the semi-philosophical nature of Kore Kosmu, in contrast to the magical nature of Genesis.

There are two answers to the question, “What is innate human evil?” The one is “ignorance”; the other is the sin of illicit knowledge. The oriental tradition puts the accent on the cognitive aspect of discord between human consciousness and cosmic reality, whilst the occidental tradition puts it on the moral aspect. The oriental tradition sees in innate human evil a kind of misunderstanding, where consciousness mistakes the empirical personality for the true Self which is immutable and eternal. In contrast, the occidental tradition sees here the consequence of the sin of having wanted to be “like gods, knowing good and evil”.
A multitude of souls
Cain kills Abel

Genesis does not confine itself to the first stage of the Fall in paradise —although this is the decisive one—but adds three subsequent stages: notably Cain’s fratricide, the generation of giants, and the building of the tower of Babel (Genesis iv, 1-16; vi, 1-4; xi, 1-9).

Cain’s fratricide is the primordial phenomenon (Goethe’s Urphaenomen) containing the seed of all subsequent wars, revolutions and revolts in the history of the human race. His fratricide is the revolt of the “lower self” against the “true Self’—of the fallen “likeness” against the intact “image”.

Cain, who killed his brother Abel, became an exile—he became a wanderer. For to wander is the inevitable lot of the revolt of the “lower self” against the “higher Self”

The generation of giants is the primordial phenomenon which is the seed of all subsequent pretensions in the history of the human race for groups and peoples to play a domineering role as divine sovereigns, and thus all pretensions of being “supermen”. The Caesars who arrogated divine honour and authority to themselves, Nietzsche’s “superman” (Uebermensch), and likewise the diverse fascist and communist Fuhrers. 

These are the primordial “gigantism” of which Genesis speaks. At the root of the generation of giants is the marriage of the “lower self” with entities of the fallen hierarchies—instead of with the “true Self”.

The generation of giants was followed by the flood. To be drowned is the lot entailed by the pretension to be a “superman”. He who unites himself  the fallen hierarchies,  will be drowned, i.e. he will fall prey to madness. This happened to Nietzsche, the inspired author of works lauding the “superman” and the antichrist. 

David and Goliath by Osmar Schindler
The Tower of Babel
And the building of the tower of Babel (Genesis xi, 1-9) is the primordial phenomenon containing in seed form all subsequent tendencies in the history of the human race towards the conquest of heaven by means of forces acquired and developed on the earth.

At the root of the building of the tower of Babel is the collective will of “lower selves” to achieve the replacing of the “true Self” of the celestial hierarchies and God with a superstructure of universal significance fabricated through this will.

The building of the tower of Babel had as its effect the “thunderbolt” of the “descent of the Lord”, who “confused their language”—that of the builders—and “scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth” (Genesis xi, 7-9), so that they would no longer understand one another’s language. To be blasted by a thunderbolt is the fate—as inevitable as the two preceding—of building, collectively or individually a tower of Babel.
It is thus that the “primitive” tribes and nomadic peoples, disinherited from their past and obliged to begin everything again, began to live in caves or camp under trees. There were once powerful kingdoms and magnificent towns in Africa, but their descendants had lost all memory of them and gave themselves up entirely to the daily life of “primitive” tribes—the life of hunting, fishing, agriculture and war.

The forgetting on the part of the indigenous Australians was even more complete.


The law of the tower of Babel is manifest in  purgatory after death. For every man who is not a saint or fully righteous man builds a kind of “tower of Babel” which is his own. His actions, opinions and aspirations constitute a “private world” that he has built and that he bears with himself into the spiritual world after his death. This subjective world must there pass through the trial of meeting with  spiritual reality—the thunderbolt. No one judges it; it is the soul itself who judges itself in the light of a completely awakened conscience.

Seen from without, a soul who enters the state of purgatory disappears from the sight of other souls and is thus plunged into the darkness of invisibility and inaccessibility.
But seen from within, a soul is plunged into the absolute light of trans-subjective consciousness, which seems to envelop and make the soul so concentrated as to become inaccessible to everyone.

No one has given a clearer idea and a more convincing description, being founded on authentic experience, than that given by St. John of the Cross in his Dark Night of the Soul.

“The more clear the light the more does it blind the eyes of the owl, and the stronger the sun’s rays the more it blinds the visual organs. So the divine light of contemplation, when it beats on the soul, not yet perfectly enlightened, causes spiritual darkness, because it surpasses its strength.

“When the rays of this pure light strike upon the soul, in order to expel its impurities, the soul perceives itself to be so unclean and miserable that it seems as if God had set Himself against it, and itself were set against God. So grievous and painful is this feeling that it was one of the heaviest afflictions of Job during his trial: “Why hast Thou set me contrary to Thee, and I become burdensome to myself?” (Job vii, 20).

“It fears that it never will be worthy, and that all its goodness is gone. However God He touches the soul not to chastise it, but to load it with His graces…

“The light of God which illumines an Angel enlightens him, and sets him on fire with love, for he is a spirit already prepared for the infusion of that light; but man, being impure and weak, is ordinarily enlightened in darkness, in distress and pain, till the fire of love, purifying him, shall have refined him, so that being made pure he may be able to receive with sweetness, like the Angels, the union of this inflowing love.(Dark Night of the Soul, St John of the Cross)
The Ascent of the Mountain of Purgatory by William Blake

The purification portrayed here amounts to a school of humility. In the Card of the sixteenth Arcanum of the Tarot. The thunderbolt which blasts is the divine light which dazzles and bears down; the blasted tower is what the human powers of understanding, imagination and will have erected, which find themselves confronted with divine reality; the constructors who fall represent the “school of humility” for the human powers of understanding, imagination and will.

It is this law which is the theme of the Magnificat that I have put at the head of this Letter, where it is said:

He has scattered those who have proud thoughts in their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones…
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty-handed.

In biology in the process of evolution there are many ways which lead to a temporary advantage due to the specialisation of an organism, but which always ends in an impasse. Thus the great reptiles, the Saurians, attained uncontested dominion on the earth owing to their physical strength, their agility in movement, and their formidable jaws. But they lasted only to give way to small beings without the advantages of physical strength. These small warm-blooded beings, the first mammals, were not so specialised as the reptiles, and were insignificant beings alongside the latter.

Their very insignificance enabled them to survive during the long period when the land was dominated by powerful and specialised types of reptile.
(Julian Huxley, Evolution in Action)

What is true in the domain of biology is also true in all other domains.

Our principal danger is that of preferring the role of “builders of the tower of Babel” to watching over “as gardeners or vine-growers the garden or the vine of the Lord”.

The Church was always conscious of this danger. This is why it always insisted — whilst encouraging effort — on the principle of grace as the sole source for advancing on the way of perfection. This is also why it was always suspicious of so-called “initiation fraternities” or such-like groups. The serious reason for the Church to take a negative attitude towards these is the danger of the substitution of building for growth, of “doing” for grace, and of ways of specialisation for the way of salvation. This explains the opposition of the Church to Freemasonry.
The Freemasons claim to make the modern world,
so does Ahriman
A fakir on a bed of nails, Benares 1907

You see a fakir who is insensible to a bed of nails, or who has himself buried alive for a week without being suffocated, or who makes a plant grow in your presence. This fakir has realised some advantages; he can do what you cannot do. But he has attained it at the expense of general development as a human being; he has specialised himself. He will never make a contribution of value to philosophy, religion or art. He is at an impasse—awaiting a thunderbolt from above which can enable him to get out of it.

The fakir and the magician both need equally the liberating thunderbolt from above in order to return to the way of purely human evolution, i.e. to that of general growth, without the impasses of specialisation.

And then the problem that disquieted Agrippa of Nettesheim, author of the classic work on magic, De Occulta Philosophia. How could it be that the author who finds a multitude of things based on authentic experience, became the sceptic disenchanted with life who wrote De Incertitudine et Vanitate Scientiarum (“On the Uncertainty and the Vanity of the Sciences”), which was written during his last years of life?

Agrippa had built a “tower of Babel” which was later blasted by a “thunderbolt from above”. It was higher reality which made all the “sciences of the supernatural” — to which he had devoted the best years of his life — appear vain to him. The tower was shaken, but the way of heaven was opened. He was free to begin again, i.e. in a condition to enter upon the way of growth.

The White Cross of Sophie Scholl
Hermeticism is a tree and not a tower. And it is man himself, the whole man, who is this tree. Above all I would most love to see here the Tree of Death and Resurrection — the Cross from which the Rose springs. This is the Cross that is mortifying and vivifying at the same time — the Cross where the agony of Calvary and the glory of the Resurrection are united. For the Cross is the law of growth: that of perpetual dying and becoming.

The “lotus centres” grow and mature in the light, warmth and life of the true, the beautiful and the good, without any special technical method being applied. The “lotuses”, just like the whole human being, develop according to the general law.

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. (Mark iv, 26-27)

The Art of Combination of Raymond Lull

Calculating machines and computers have their place in the scientific work of today. But they have no place in Hermeticism, where personal and original effort of thought is irreplaceable. Neither The Art of Combination of Raymond Lull nor the “archeometry” of Saint Yves d’Alveydre, ingenious and well-founded though they are, were accepted in Hermeticism as intellectual instruments for discoveries and classification.

Archeometry of Saint Yves d’Alveydre

Hermeticism —being the art of becoming, the art of transformation, transubstantiation and transmutation of human consciousness — cannot make use of any intellectual instrument.

The symbols that Hermeticists use are not intellectual instruments. Rather they are the Hermeticists’ guides and masters, like the “symbol of faith”, the Christian Creed, which is not an instrument of thought, but rather is a stellar constellation high above the head. The alchemical principle being the soul of Hermeticism is the “marriage of opposites” and not their divorce. The marriage of opposites is a principle of universal significance. This is not a compromise that one contrives, but rather the magic of the cross.

It is similar with the hierarchies “of the right” and “of the left” in the world and in the history of the world. They can neither be united nor separated. The hierarchies “of the left” are the cross of the hierarchies “of the right”, and vice versa. There is no other hope in the world and in its history than the alchemical process of the transmutation of evil into good—the “sacrament of penance” on a cosmic scale.
The 38th Parallel
Let us take some historical examples. The wars of religion between Protestants and Catholics and also, before them, the wars between Christians and Mohammedans led — as in the Korean war — to the establishment of a line of demarcation, a “38th. parallel”. The result was recognition of one another’s existence and of the need to live in one another’s presence, i.e. to suffer one another’s presence. The decision was made to “carry the cross” instead of resorting to the surgery of war.

It is the same with the conflict between science and religion, both in the East and in the West. They will have to suffer one another. And the result will be that there will always be more Einsteins and more Teilhard de Chardins—believing scientists and scientific priests.

The soul of Hermeticism is that “nothing should be lost…all should have eternal life” (John vi, 39-40).

Its fundamental thesis that all can be saved is that of faith, pure and simple, i.e. due to the experience of the divine breath. It has the virtue of taking hold not only of the heart and the will but also of the understanding.

The parable of the lost sheep can, by analogy, apply to the inner life of the soul. If one considers each force in the soul as a “sheep”, one arrives at the understanding that the soul’s faults and vices are not monsters, but rather, lost sheep.

The desire to submit the will of other people to one’s own is, fundamentally, a sheep which is lost. For at the root of the desire to dominate is found the dream of unity, union, the harmony of a choir. It is a “sheep”. But instead of seeking the realisation of the dream of harmony by way of love, the will seeks to realise it by way of compulsion.


This is a sheep that has lost its way. In order for it to return to the “flock”, the will underlying the desire to dominate must be imprinted with the understanding that it is in the domain of love and not in that of commandment that it will find what it is seeking. Here is the return of the lost sheep — the alchemical process of transmutation of a “base metal” into “gold”.

As it is the same with all the soul’s faults and vices, we all have the mission of finding and bringing back to the flock (i.e. to the soul’s choral harmony) the lost sheep in ourselves.


The practical way of doing this is meditation. It is deep meditation which makes present every “lost sheep” in us, with sufficient force to impress on it the alternative concerned. To meditate is to think in the presence of God—just as to pray is to speak in the presence of God.

In order to meditate, one must place oneself within the light from above. And in order to experience contemplation, it is necessary to become one with this light. For this reason the stages of the soul corresponding to concentration, meditation and contemplation are those of purification, illumination and union. And it is the three sacred vows of obedience, chastity and poverty which render concentration, meditation and contemplation effective. These are the practical “secrets” of inner “gardening”—concerned with the laws of growth (and not those of building).