The Other Tower: Growing Through the Language of Soul. {fiction}


While visiting Israel in April of this year, I became intrigued by certain aspects of Kabbalah (a mystical branch of Judaism akin to Sufism or Gnostic Christianity) that trickled down to me during my stay. Specifically, the way in which Kabbalah interprets stories for their inner — rather than outer — symbology and meaning, resonated with my own passion for storytelling, mythology and the inner journey these narratives can illuminate.

I had recently read Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’, and I noticed a theme emerging. What happens if we read stories at the level of soul, consciousness, psychology? What happens when we see them as more-than-physical and more-than-what-meets-the-eye? A story about the Exodus is not (just) about a terrestrial journey. A story about a pair of shoes is not about shoes. A story about a tower…

This line of thinking inspired the creation of the following short story, a retelling of the biblical Tower of Babel tale. Read it as fiction, or read it as allegory. The choice is the reader’s.


We all know the story of the Tower of Babel. How the greed, the arrogance of human beings who sought to reach the realm of the gods, brought about their own destruction.

How a community who once shared one language dissolved into many disparate, constantly warring groups who could not understand each other.

But what few know is that in another world, in another time, there was another land, another people, and another tower…

The name of this land does not matter. Time has forgotten it. It is enough to know that its inhabitants had never known one language (as those of Babel had) — no, they existed in a state of perpetual confusion from the start.

Every village had its own language; every street its own dialect; every household its unique vernacular. Neighbors would labor to comment on the weather, and marketplaces were nexus of verbal chaos.

Yet, they too sought to reach something higher than themselves. They too (somehow, despite so many barriers to communication) decided to build a tower.

At first, this seemed a hopeless endeavor. Indeed, how could this people possibly hope to build such an edifice when they could not understand each other? A cornerstone laid at sunrise would be gone by sundown. Mortar mixed by moonlight — under express, unmistakable orders to do so — would dry by noon untouched.

Much time passed, and the people, who could not yet understand each other, made little progress.

Moons waxed and waned. Seasons rose and fell. Stones were laid upon stones, then inexplicably disappeared again.

Tongues wagged, and heads shook in helpless incomprehension.

The building of the tower went on for generations and generations, until it had been so long that no one could remember when the building had begun.

And as time passed, villages and streets — and languages — began to mix. Daughters married sons, children crossed the invisible language lines and befriended children, and the invariable necessities of living brought the people together.

Slowly, slowly, new kin, friends and neighbors learned to speak to one another, for where the will to be understood exists, the words follow.

And the tower grew.

And the more the people spoke together, sat together, laughed and loved together, the faster the tower rose into the sky.

And still it rises today — always upward. Still the pursuit of knowledge and transcendence grows toward its own fulfillment. That is, it will if we let it.

To learn the language of soul is the work of generations. And so we learn. And so we rise.




Toby IsraelToby Israel is an incorrigible vagabond. She travels in search of dragons, mermaids, adventures and searches… and cross-cultural understanding. Avid dancer, yogi, cook and lover of words, she is inspired by movement and poetry, good food and new things. She studied Anthropology at Middlebury College, and now works as an editor at elephant journal. She also continues to find her way in the world as a 21st century nomad, and you can share her journey at Next Stop World, TwitterFacebook and Instagram.


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