Lightning – Symbolic Analysis

Posted on April 9, 2011


“…each mind/body/spirit complex shall and should and, indeed, must perceive each archetype, if you use this convenient term, in its own way. Therefore, you may see that precision is not the goal; rather the quality of general concept complex perception is the goal.”- Ra, Session 77



Arcanum 16

Key Observations

  • The original potentiator was light in its sudden and fiery form; that is, the lightning itself.
  • The tower is a pyramid: starting usually from a quadrangular foundation symbolizing the terrestrial basis, the edges and sides of the pyramid converge towards a unique point, the summit. This point symbolizes the Principle or primordial Unity, from which the manifestation of our surrounding world is radiating. To be reborn to the Principle we all come from makes up the real sense of this ascension. An ascension which brings the individual from its human or sensitive state back to a supra-individual or supra-sensitive state, from the manifested world to the undifferentiated Principle, from the terrestrial to the celestial world, from the scattered cosmic vision to the unitary or metaphysical vision. This is the deep sense revealed by the pyramid.¹
    • in this case, essentially the lightning blew it’s top off. This sort of dramatically sudden upheaval is the touchtone of this card. The relentless destruction of old ideas, belief structures and paradigms that no longer serve us and the sudden awakening or awareness of it; perhaps even the decision to turn and walk away from old ways of thinking.
  • The two falling men perhaps represent the essence of loosing ones ground or footing and the feeling that everything is being flipped upside down; being ungrounded.
  • Shock and “Ah Ha!”

Deeper Meanings: suggestions have been embedded within every image pointing to perspective, functions and relationships each archetype has with polarity, the material world and the other archetypes. Observing the left or right hand or the position of the figure (forward or side facing) are two examples of another layer of symbolism that can be considered. Ex. the right hand may be considered to represent the right-handed path or the “service-to-others” path, while the left hand may be considered the left handed path or “service-to-self”. Facing to the left may suggest that this archetype is naturally focused in the direction of self.

  • We build up structures in our minds to define and describe certain things about our life and to paint the path before us. We know that this [evolution of spirit] is an ongoing process and that as Ra explains, ” many many things are removed along the path of enlightenment”. The archetype of lightning  is a chain reaction, a build up of energy that is so powerfully destructive and regenerative that it can be seen as violent or dangerous, maybe reckless, but in this case, functioning in the capacity of potentiator, lightning is representing the charge.
  • Each shock is another opportunity for us to reexamine our relationship with the material world through introspection. Sometimes it take something sudden to wake us up and remind us that we are not forms and structures we sometimes identify ourself with.
  • The lightning breaks open the top and strikes deep within.
  • There are four fallen pieces of debris falling with the men.
  • The full view of the pyramid is not even seen. The perspective of this card is very close to the events that are occurring all around it, giving the pyramid no left or right edges, both sides are open. Something about this card screams to me “the great leveler” in that either way you are going, this energy is meant to shake you up and lead you back inside.


  • tower (pyramids) can be found in the Moon (Arcanum 18)
  • upside-down figures can be found in the Martyr (Arcanum 12), the Wheel of Fortune (Arcanum 10)

“Each student may see some other nuance. We, as we have said, did not offer these images with boundaries but only as guidelines intending to aid the adept and to establish the architecture of the deep, or archetypical, portion of the deep mind.”- Ra, Session 91

THE FIRE OF HEAVEN (lightning).


 16. ע

16th Hebrew letter (Ayin).


The Ayin expresses the same hieroglyphic as the Vau (6), but materialized. It is the sign of Material sense. Again degenerated, it expresses all that is crooked, false, perverse, and bad.

Astronomically this letter corresponds with the zodiacal sign of Capricornus.


The Lightning-struck Tower.

This card bears the picture of a tower, with its battlements struck by lightning; two men, one crowned, the other uncrowned, are falling with the fragments of broken masonry; the attitude of the former recalls the shape of the letter Ayin. This card contains the first allusion to a material building in our pack, but we shall find the same symbol reproduced in the 18th and 19th arcana. Here it signifies the invisible or spiritual world, incarnated in the visible and material world. The 16th card represents the material fall of Adam. He will gradually become more materialized until the 18th arcanum, in which he attains the maximum of his materialization. The significations of this figure are all derived from this idea of fall, of the materialization of the spiritual letter (Vau). 1. Materialization of God the Holy Spirit. (See 3rd arcanum.) Entrance of the Holy Spirit into the visible World. The Holy Spirit acting like the God of matter.


2. The materialization of the Adam-Eve, who have been spiritualized until now.

Entrance of the Adam-Eve into the visible World–


3. Materialization of the Universe-principle–


The Tower
Upheaval and change. The need to build very strong foundations in all things to prevent loss. Action. Big news will appear soon. Be prepared for change that is sudden and tumultuous. Need to address unsettling situation before it becomes too big. A rekindling of a situation or relationship that has too long been ignored. Almost too late to change path. Possible to be surprised by news or events.- Daily Tarot Card/Facebook

Modern keywords for the tower:

Chaos —– Sudden change —– Impact —– Hard times

Crisis —– Revelation —– Disruption —– Realizing the truth

Disillusion —– Crash —– Burst —– Uncomfortable experience

Downfall —– Ruin —– Ego blow —– Explosive transformation

From Google books : A Dictionary of Symbols By Juan Eduardo Cirlot

A Dictionary of Symbols By Juan Eduardo CirlotA Dictionary of Symbols By Juan Eduardo Cirlot