Guardian of the Threshold

Dagobah

The Guardian of the Threshold is a menacing figure that is described by a number of esoteric schools of thought. Also called ‘dweller on the threshold,’ the term indicates a spectral image which is supposed to manifest itself as soon as ‘the student of the spirit ascends upon the path into the higher worlds of knowledge.’

The concept is a literary invention of the English mystic and novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton, found in his romance ‘Zanoni’ (1842). Right after the novel, the term obtained wide currency and usage in theosophical circles (modern theosophy arose in Germany in the 16th century seeking direct knowledge of, presumed mysteries of being and nature, particularly concerning the nature of divinity). The Guardian of the Threshold is a spectral figure and is the abstract of the debit and credit book of the individual. ‘It is the combined evil influence that is the result of the wicked thoughts and acts of the age in which any one may live, and it assumes to each student a definite shape at each appearance, being always either of one sort or changing each time.’ ‘

This Dweller of the Threshold meets us in many shapes. It is the Cerberus guarding the entrance to Hades; the Dragon which St. Michael (spiritual will-power) is going to kill; the Snake which tempted Eve, and whose head will be crushed by the heel of the woman; the Hobgoblin watching the place where the treasure is buried, etc. He is the king of evil, who will not permit that within his kingdom a child should grow up, which might surpass him in power; the Herod before whose wrath the divine child Christ has to flee into a foreign country, and is not permitted to return to his home (the soul) until the king (Ambition, Pride, Vanity, Self-righteousness, etc.) is dethroned or dead.’ According to Danish American Christian occultist Max Heindel, the Dweller on the Threshold, which every aspirant has to meet -usually at an early stage of his progress into the unseen worlds- is one of the main causes of obsession of men interested in occultism.

The main theosophical teachings about the dweller of the threshold remain valid also for anthroposophical scholars (Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded by Austrian esotericist Rudolph Steiner, which teaches that through inner development a person can better know the spiritual world). According to Steiner’s teachings this image will present itself as soon as the student of the spirit ascends upon the path into the higher worlds of knowledge. At a certain stage of the evolution the soul forces, of thinking, feeling, and willing dissociate themselves and bring to the student a new inner way of perceiving that will bring to the encounter of the first Guardian of the Threshold. This Doppelgänger is like a ‘guardian’ that stands before the supersensible world, in order to deny entrance to those who are not truly capable of entering. He may therefore be called the ‘guardian of the threshold that lies before the world of soul and spirit.’ Steiner also said the Guardian was encountered when men pass through physical death, and between death and a new birth.

He identified two different ‘Guardian of the Threshold,’ one being the lesser, while the other one is called the greater: ‘The student meets the lesser Guardian when the threads connecting willing, feeling, and thinking within the finer astral and etheric bodies begin to loosen, in the way described in the foregoing chapter. The greater Guardian is encountered when this sundering of the connections extends to the physical parts of the body, that is, at first to the brain. The lesser Guardian is a sovereign being. He does not come into existence, as far as the student is concerned, until the latter has reached the requisite stage of development. Only some of his most important characteristics can here be indicated.’

The Lesser Guardian instructs the student that she will not pass until she is able to transform the visage of the guardian – as an image of our own earned or inherited venality – into a more comely form by redeeming or forgiving our uglier qualities. The Greater Guardian informs the student that she will not pass him until his own visage – as an image of the greater potential of the student – is incorporated into her own being. These guardians are almost always initially frightening or disturbing, but they serve to protect the student from realities for which she is not morally prepared.

Italian esotericist Tommaso Palamidessi, in his ‘The Guardians of the Thresholds and the Evolutionary Way’ (1969), identifies explicitly the lesser Guardian as the archetype of the future body of resurrection. According to Palamidessi as much as Steiner, the lesser Guardian, is not a spirit but a ghost, an energetic charge of base instincts and it belongs to the world of the images of the hereafter. The Guardian is a kind of echo or mirror of the thoughts and actions made by the individual: ‘In fact, like the echo of our voice that resounds in the valley but which, being neither us nor our voice, is nevertheless a reflected vibration of our voice, so, the Guardian of the Threshold is the ego of our Ego […] a feeling of hatred does not finish with the action of hating, but remains recorded in the elemental being, in this imitation of nature, because an action of hatred is accompanied by a concentrated will and thought, that constitutes a process of meditation, therefore, a creating process. In the final analysis, one is persecuted by what the thinker has thought.’

The Guardian of the Threshold, therefore, is a separate new subtle body, moldable in good or bad, which every Ego received the faculty to create in its own image and likeness. This spectral figure is the abstract of the debit and credit book of the individual and it is destined to be the body of resurrection. According to Palamidessi’s thought, the Guardian of the Threshold is the image of what will be the future body of resurrection: ‘Every Ego received the faculty to create, in its own image and likeness, another of itself, but we say again, ‘image and likeness,’ and this is the archetype of the future body of resurrection, or the actual small ‘Guardian of the Threshold.’ What we are revealing to you is a living part of the archeosophical Mysteries. Instead, the Ego is created in the image and likeness of God.’

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