Today, Americans are marking the 10th anniversary of September 11. Nobody will ever be able to forget where they were that morning, nor the striking footage - somehow shot so clearly from every angle possible - of the world's tallest skyscraper disintegrating into smoke before our very eyes. It was America's worst nightmare... and yet, it could have been worse.
At this time every year, I am compelled to zoom out and view the extensive symbolism surrounding the the Twin Towers, which stood for three decades as the financial matrix of the world. Two images stand out and contrast in my mind; one of Phillippe Petit playfully defying death, atop a tightrope, (the beginning), and one of people falling to theirs from the burning buildings (the end). Both are of mythic proportion, completely surreal and defy explanation within the scope of our ordinary reality.
Power and the Tower
In a previous post I mentioned how Tarot expresses 'universal laws.' It's as if all the scripts were written (by us) long ago and we just keep re-enacting and revising them...and that is really what myths are - a record of dreamtime stories from the collective unconscious, unlike history, which is a record of stories as events, as they occur in the outer world.
Sometimes the fabric between the two realms is lifted or torn and the effect is momentous, impossible to explain. It usually happens when the rational mind (masculine) has become too dominant, threatening the balance of life by depleting us of mystery, magic and awe (feminine). A grand act of surrealism, for better or worse, throws our rational minds into chaos, challenging our set notion of which realm, exactly, we are in. It's a form of death, when everything familiar suddenly isn't. And at this opening between the veils (in Greek, the word apocalypse means 'lifting of the veil'), there is a moment of truth or grace, when time just stops and feels infinite at once. This is the expression of the 'mute' number, 11. In the Marseille trump 11, La Force, the Goddess' hat is shaped like a lemniscate or number 8, signifying her infinite dominion over balance, truth, paradox, law and order in the natural world.
11 is the master number of illumination and inspiration. If it shows up, that's usually a sign. World players know of the number's power and have tried to invoke it - Armistice was signed on 11/11 at the 11th hour and Prince William and Kate Middleton were married on the 29th (reduces to 11) day of the month at the 11th hour in 2011. The towers themselves formed a colossal 11, as if standing in constant invocation to the heavens. And they were twins. In both alchemy and cross-cultural myth, twins embody the duality (and paradox) that each of us must work with, overcome and unify, a theme that reappears over and over in the major arcana of Tarot. Another duality we create and reckon with is between ourselves and what we imagine as God. Any act of balance or karma takes the form of Judgement in our minds, as if we are being rewarded or punished by events we have no control over.
A tower is, of course, an overtly masculine symbol. It's La Maison Dieu, 'God's House.' Putting aside Babel for a moment, in Tarot duality terms, that means the opposing and uniting force that knocks down the ego, blows it's mind or brings it to climax is feminine - 'La Force' of trump 11.
Not surprisingly, the young man who heard the Towers calling him to give them life is a double fire sign, Leo (the Lion) with Aries Moon. He is an agile performer, the fearless star of his own show - an artist who creates from the heart and performs dramatically daring feats. Aries is also the Fool, the 'wise child' and the hero who lives for the next mission. Sun conjunct Pluto indicates a person who was born with a very strong feeling of destiny, of having something to show to the world that will transform consciousness. His Jupiter, Lord of the Sky is in Capricorn (mastery, the corporate world). Not everyone with this combination would use their faith and skill to literally ascend to the summit of the world's tallest banking institution, yet, for him, it was the only way. Fire is known for it's ego size and you'd have to have one as tall as the Towers themselves to want to perform a feat like this, or indeed to have built such monoliths in the first place. The difference is that Phillippe, wise Fool, always maintained his connection with the universe and was keenly aware of his place in it:
"At some point in one of the crossings, I lay down on the wire and looked at the sky, and I saw a bird above me. And again, because... my senses were [decoupled]. I could see that bird pretty high up, and I saw the eyes were red. And I thought of the myth of Prometheus there. But the bird was circling and looking at me as if I was invading his territory, as if I was trespassing, which I was. So at some point I thought the gods - the god of the wind, the gods of the towers, the god of the wire - all those invisible forces that we persist in thinking don't exist, but actually rule our lives - might become impatient, might become annoyed at my persistent vagabondage there. So my intuition told me it was time for me to close the curtain on this very intimate performance..."
If you've not seen it, here is the segment with Phillippe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974 from 'New York - Center of the World,' in two parts:
The archetype of the Fool in Tarot is one who has left the realm of perceived reality, of wealth, possessions, pain and attachments. It sounds a bit like dying, but it's actually freedom from death. Transcendent, he wafts between forms like a breeze and has no fear of reaching the end. He knows there isn't one, so is free to live life "1000%." Most of us find it hard to get past the more finite idea of Death. It's terrifying, like the Grim Reaper in trump 13 and to be avoided at all costs. The two figures strike a very similar pose (this feature is unique to Tarot de Marseille), plus, one is unnumbered, while the other is unnamed - perhaps a hint that they are really one and the same ?
To me, they seem to illustrate the dual experiences of facing imminent death, as depicted in the two photographs at the opening of the post.
We are eternal. Peace.
Ma'at, Goddess of Truth, Balance, Justice