towers

Written in response to someone who thinks that the Tower of Babel is mere allegory, a literary device, etc. Of course it is an allegory but that does not mean it never existed. The truth of Scripture is literal, allegorical, moral, and mystical.

Carlos Caso-Rosendi

I do believe, with the Fathers of the Church that“Littera gesta docet, Quod credas allegoria. Moralia quod agas, Quo tendas anagogia.” [1] There was a tower, and there was a moment when Adam was induced into a profound sleep, etc. Each one of those things was written “in the manner of a rhapsody” (St Jerome) like the Iliad by Homer, for example. The building of a tower occurred and it was used by God to represent something He wanted to communicate. He had done that before and He continued to do it through History. In my poor limited and very uneducated way I understand towers are a representation of human pride. Eve was born of the side of Adam (Hebrew, sela) and Longinus cut the side of Our Crucified Lord. From those realities we understand that the Church was mystically born from the side of Our Lord, blood and water forever mingled as His Sacrifice and Our Baptism, forgiveness and cleansing. Should we reject the reality and say it did not happen because it is analogical? I don’t think so.

Before the Empire State and the Eiffel Tower were built, the citizens of Seville in Spain, proposed to their Christian King Alphonsus, to build a tower for the Cathedral they just had recovered from the Muslim Moors. The words are recorded in stone near La Giralda, the tower they built: “ ..y hagamos una torre tan alta que los que están por venir nos tomen por locos.” (Let us build a tower so high that those still to be born would think us mad.) La Giralda was for many years after that, the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere. The phrase of the builders captures the madness of pride, the need to demean others by climbing above them, to become a god of sorts by mere accumulation, the desire to be remembered and admired as great players in the pissing contest of the history of human endeavors.

Towers, pyramids, tall engenders of all kinds multiplied by mankind over History are many. Christ used a tower accident, a fortuitous real event to teach: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Mark 13:1-4

Jesus Christ made an allegory out of a real event, like I said, He had done it before and He would do it again. “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered Matthew 10:29-30

The wisdom of God ordains the entire world to serve as a model for our instruction; even the minutest things are (or are not) there for a reason. Reality has a meaning because it was created by the Word of God. Shakespeare the Catholic placed in the mouth of a man the foolish human conclusion that the successive events we witness have no meaning: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28.) Of course, Shakespeare knew better because he wrote plays with a moral meaning and knew that God could weave parables too. God did it once and will do it again.

Romans 8:5-7 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

To know this is to enter deeply in the mystery of original sin. Eve was made to envy God’s wisdom. See the allegory there; the foolishness of envy always is on the opposite side to wisdom, divine or human. All wisdom comes from God so ultimately human wisdom is not something a human being can boast about but the human ego can manage to stain even the sacred learning. The contemporaries of Jesus wondered, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”And they took offence at him.

I remember when I was a kid some poor young man in our neighborhood earned a prize after inventing a certain medical device. The event was in the newspapers and one astonished (and knuckleheaded) neighbor of mine commented, “How can he be a genius? He lives next to my sister’s!” That is the powerful logic of envy! Like if belonging to his neighborhood was a guarantee to be as thick as he was! Ha ha! It happens among men of the cloth also and it has a name: invidia sacerdotalis I may have mangled the Latin but that’s how I remember it.

Romans 1:18-22 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools … etc.”

Men compete with each other but in reality they are competing with God. The building of towers is the result of that futile attempt to be somebody. Osama Bin Laden conspired to bring down the World Trade Center towers, and his family is now involved in building the tallest building in the world. That is a strange thing to do in a country where space is not as scarce as in Manhattan to say the least. So on the morning of the 14th anniversary of 9/11 a huge crane belonging to the Bin Laden Construction Co. was hit by lighting during an unexpected storm. The lightning hit at the base of the structure —that in itself is a rare event— and caused the contraption to collapse on top of the nearby Mosque at the time of prayers killing a number of people. Only a few days later a stampede caused the death of several hundred in the same place. Coincidence or God’s commentary? Check the odds.

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Later the announcement was made that the huge tower depicted here will be built costing over a billion dollars. What followed was God’s comment, in my humble opinion. On the first hours of 2016, when the attention of the world was centered on the largest fireworks show on Earth, in Dubai … one of the tallest hotels in the world caught on fire. The flames advanced at a spectacular speed up the front of the building. Firefighters could do very little to stop them. It all happened on 1/1/2016 a date which resolves to 11 (1+1+2+0+1+6=11) the biblical number for “last things” but that may be just a coincidence although “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

I believe God talks to mankind through the events of the day. Some may think me a simpleton or a loony but my thoughts are the result of a lifetime observing curious coincidences that seem to point at something. Of course I believe in Scripture like the Fathers did: a Divine Oracle or Expression built in four layers: literal, analogical, moral, and mystical. That is what I received from the Church and I am in no position to dismiss it.

There is this problem of the crescendo of evil and pride that is the natural result of that moment of envy our mother Eve had in the Garden of Eden. The fall was great but men foolishly think they can accumulate stones to climb back to a self-built paradise of their own. Inside the man who has allowed the devil to seduce him, there is this necessity to assert himself, to show his value, to cast a longer shadow than the rest. That is pure lunacy. We have been building those towers since the days on the plains of Shinar and our pathetic constructions keep falling. I’m afraid the Saudi tower will not fare any better. The only stairway to Heaven is the Cross and it is firmly planted in the House of God. (Genesis 28:17)

God still controls reality and He still uses it as a teaching tool for those who are paying attention.


 

[1] The Fathers accepted four levels of interpretation. Augustine of Dacia (d. 1282) condensed the teaching thus:

Littera gesta docet, quod credas allegoria;
moralia quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.

The literal teaches the facts; allegory what you should believe. The moral sense what you should do, and anagogy (the mystical view ) what you should hope for.

God presents to us Scripture full of meaning, on a variety of levels, literal, allegorical, moral, and mystical.

 

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