Christ the Hierophant of the Soul
In our last two Akasha podcasts we have focused on the Guardian of the Threshold, the Dweller on the Threshold, the three human doubles, the “I Am” of the human being, enlightenment, and initiation. All of these topics point at the almost indescribable “consciousness” of the human being and its path towards developing a moral conscience. These topics are germane to human self-development which naturally entails self-knowledge – one of the most frightening things an aspirant can encounter. The self is the focus of development and yet the self has many names, elements, and components: the “I Am”, ego, lower self, Adam Kadmon Self, the Angelic Self, the doubles of the lower self, the higher self, Spirit Self (Manas), the self of Life Spirt (Buddhi), the Christened Self, the selfless self, and ultimately the highest self which is found in the Spirit Human (Atman).
All of these facets of the human self – from inception to fulfillment of spirit potential – are part of the biography of the “I Am.” This includes both the “absolute” cosmic “I Am” and the “relative” Earthly “I Am” found in every conscious human soul striving towards its higher self. This biography of the “self” is the greatest cosmological story ever told and each of us adds to this biography with every spiritual step we take.
Questions from subscribers led us to address the “unanswerable” question: What was the self, What is the self, and What will the self become?” Only a panoramic view of the entire history of the Cosmic Christ could begin to answer these questions. The Pre-earthly Deeds of Christ had to be addressed as well as an explanation of the Nine Hierarchy, the Holy Trinity, and the reality of Fallen Angels throughout time and the seven incarnations of the Earth. Christ donated, through the combined forces and beings of the seven major Elohim (Exusiai, Spirits of Form), the form, function, and content of the human “I Am” for each individual human being. Then, through multiple sacrifices and great cosmic deeds Christ sustained his creation by helping humans learn to stand upright, speech, and think. Through the Mystery of Golgotha, Christ birthed the “I Am” of humanity in history. Since that time, Christ’s Holy Spirit has accompanied each spiritual step that any human “I Am” has made back to the divine home where Christ originally birthed the templates of our developing “I Am.”
Christ, like the Father God and the Holy Spirit loves each individual personally as a mother loves her child. Each developing human “I Am” will one day advance and arise to realm of the angelic hosts. This is the goal of Christ’s co-creation with the human “I Am.” There is no way that these sacred realities can be dumbed down so that anyone but an initiate could understand the true impact of such wisdom.
As we have addressed these topics in Akasha video podcasts, we usually like to make program notes available for reference and further elaboration. This article is essentially the program notes for the talk on the Guardian of the Threshold and the Lord of Karma. The topic of crossing the threshold between the physical and spiritual world is so encompassing that it will take at least two presentations to cover the basics.
In the first presentation on the Guardian of the Threshold we were barely able to present a general picture and did not expand on the nature of the two guardians, the Lesser Guardian and the Greater Guardian of the Threshold. The distinction between these two beings is often confusing. It would be hard to describe the distinction between the two without an historical reference point. Thus, we shall look at what an ancient Egyptian might have had as an experience when they crossed the threshold of sleep, initiation, and death.
The ancient Egyptian did not have a highly developed “I Am” (ego) and therefore did not accumulate the karmic indebtedness that a modern Western soul often does. When they crossed the Threshold, there was not such a dramatic duality between the physical and spiritual worlds. The Lesser Guardian at that time was the Sphinx who could be seen at a distance by the common Egyptian as they crossed the threshold. The mystery of the Sphinx was the nature of the human being growing old and going from four legs to two legs, to three legs. Growing old, illness, and death were not feared by these ancient people like we fear them today. They still held natural clairvoyance and knew that the spiritual world existed and that death was simply entering into a world they could even experience while awake. Death did not hold the fear, doubt, and hatred that modern humans bring to the threshold and thus create the three terribly beasts at the threshold.
The ancient Egyptian barely went unconscious while crossing the threshold; whereas, the modern person is terrified of death and self-knowledge and is often brain-washed to foster doubt, hopelessness, helplessness, homelessness, and fear that the future will overwhelm them. Thus, the modern person’s consciousness is completely overwhelmed as they cross the threshold into sleep unconsciously. Just try to stay awake as you fall asleep and you will eventually meet the Lesser Guardian – which is usually quite terrifying at first. In ancient times, just staying awake for three nights could bring on initiation and often dissolved the threshold before the initiate.
When the ancient Egyptian died, they believed they would see the Jackal-headed god Anubis who would weigh on his “scale” their own heart against the weight of an ostrich feather. A heavy heart indicted that the person had used their “I Am” (ego-self) in selfish ways and thus accumulated karma (weight) that must be rectified. Thus the soul was judged by Anubis and his fate in the spiritual world was declared by the weight of karma brought to Anubis by the dying soul. Anubis then determined whether the soul deserved to enter the after-life.
In Egypt, the Lesser Guardian was seen as the Sphinx and the Greater Guardian was seen as Anubis weighing the heart. During Egyptian initiation, Hermes the great priest, wore a Jackal’s head during the ceremony which was a pre-vision for the aspirant of what will happen when they die and meet Anubis face to face. Whether sleep, initiation, or death the Egyptian encountered somewhat different beings than we encounter today when crossing the threshold because their “I Am” (egos) were only beginning to develop and their doubles (negative thinking, feeling, willing) were still in the early stages of development.
For the ancient Greeks we see that the hell hound Cerberus guarded the gates of Hell with three terrifying heads that are similar to the three doubles that arise to hound the aspirant at the threshold (gates of Hell). The ferryman Charon was the Greek’s Greater Guardian of the threshold who judged the dead by whether they had a coin in their mouth, which made them worthy enough to cross the river Styx and enter the underworld where their reward, or punishment, awaited them. Cerberus was like the Sphinx and Charon was like Anubis. There are two stages to entering the spiritual world, one through sleep and initiation and the other through death itself – thus we have the Lesser and Greater Guardians.
There are many gatekeepers, doormen, Tilers, guard dogs, dragons, and guardians who make sure that the lower elements of the physical world do not enter the refined world of the spirit. Every culture has a unique description of the two beings you meet when you temporarily cross the threshold and when you permanently cross it through death. Christians imagine that St. Peter keeps the Keys to the Pearly Gates of Heaven, and only if he finds that you are worthy does he open the gates for you to enter Heaven. The Archangel Michael judged Lucifer and cast him to Earth and carries not only the sword that struck the stone from Lucifer’s crown but also the scales of divine justice. Michael is often considered to be the being we meet when we go to sleep or become a soldier of God (Christian initiate). Michael, with his guardian sword, makes us look at our day in our nightly prayers and weighs our good deeds against the bad on his ‘scales of right and wrong.’ Thus, we go to sleep forgiven or not, with a guilty conscience or not. If we are pure of heart, we can commune with the saints and angelic hosts in the spiritual world through dreams. If we have a guilty conscience, we go into deep unconsciousness to hide from the “voice of conscience” which is trying to wake you up through self-knowledge. These few examples could be expanded upon a great deal because Christian churches have many faces for the Lesser and Greater Guardian from the many ancient traditions the church subsumed into their practices.
Rudolf Steiner gives wonderful descriptions of the Lesser and Greater Guardians in many of his works, especially in his book Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. We offer in this article many quotes of Steiner concerning the Guardian so that you have the original words to place his remarks in context. Before Steiner, it was Lord Bulwer Lytton’s occult novel Zanoni that was the most referenced work describing the Dweller on the Threshold. Later, H. P. Blavatsky and other Theosophists like Dr. Franz Hartmann, T. Subba Row, and many others tried to elaborate upon the nature of the Dweller because it is so intimately connected to spiritual initiation and development. Spiritual initiation is not possible without encountering and understanding the Dweller (Guardian) and his three helpers (doubles of thinking, feeling, willing). Thus, we have added to this article numerous selections concerning the Guardian and the Dweller in the second half of this article. But what is most important in this study is to understand the deeper nature of the Greater Guardian.
In his descriptions of the Greater Guardian of the Threshold, who Steiner indicates is Christ in our current age, we have the entire development of humanity spelled out in the most beautiful terms. Christ now mitigates karma and teaches His followers to understand karmic consequences even as a person is doing a deed. In the very moment of action, Christ illuminates what the karmic outcomes will become. Christ also stands next the person who listens for Christ’s wisdom concerning our own personal karma and what must be done to “tame the dragon” of the lower self. Christ’s actions as the Greater Guardian sometimes looks like a stern Judge to those whose hearts are found “too heavy” to get into heaven. Christ is the midwife of the self-knowledge the aspirant needs to take the next step on the path of spiritual evolution. Who better than the highest being we know in our Solar System – the second person of the Holy Trinity – Christ, to be the judge of those souls who must go through death. Christ endured death as a divine being to redeem all humans and the earth from entropy and certain death. Therefore, Christ is the most appropriate being to mother His own children into the spiritual world. Christ’s example of overcoming death is the antidote to the fear of death, the doubt of spiritual existence, and the hatred of self and others. Christ is the perfect ‘Higher Self’ that lift all others in his tide of love.
These new tasks (or deeds) that Christ has taken on are in keeping with the Pre-earthly Deeds of Christ, the Mystery of Golgotha, and the Second Coming of Christ in the etheric realm. Christ has given us memory and the capacity to glean that which seems eternal from the physical world and carry those memories and capacities from one human life to the next. Christ as Lord of Karma can mitigate karmic indebtedness and balance human karma even in natural disasters, man-made disasters, plagues, and wars because He has the power of the Holy Trinity and the Nine Hierarchy behind His decisions. Christ is already in the etherized blood arising from the heart to the head and is currently waging a battle in the etheric realm around the Earth where the souls of humanity are at stake. Many souls, when weighed by Christ the Judge of Man’s Karma, will be found too heavy due to the mill-stone of materialism around their necks. Their souls do not reach up into their spirit nature and thus are condemned to a dark after-life reliving their addictions and lower desires. The Great Counselor can work miracles for sincere, pure-hearted aspirants who wish to emulate the king on the throne of their hearts – Christ Triumphant.
Only Rudolf Steiner, through his clairvoyance, seemed to have fully understood the evolving nature of Christ Jesus. The Pre-earthly Deeds of Christ are only explained in full by Steiner and those indications, plus his interpretations of the Gospels and his own Fifth Gospel, constitute the most complete cosmology of the Cosmic Christ found anywhere. It is this “Biography of the Cosmic Christ”, or what Steiner called the ‘Sophia of Christ – the Wisdom of Christ’ that is the heart of what the evolving human “I Am” is to become. Christ descended from the highest to the lowest and is now ascending, taking his followers with him into the realms of heaven that He came from. In other words, every stage of being a human with an “I Am”, even up into our future angel natures, has been embodied by the Christ ahead of us and He has prepared those stages for our ascension alongside of the Holy Spirit. Christ perfected each of those bodily vehicles (physical, etheric, astral, etc.) and they exist in the etheric realm that He is fighting to maintain against the forces of materialism, death, and the annihilation of the human “I Am.” Many saints were over-lighted by one or another of these perfected bodies of Christ that can multiple endlessly and help in the battle to claim the etheric realm for Christ and His followers. This battle of Christ (and the Archai Michael) against Ahriman and the forces of death is the ‘second most important event in human spiritual development’ according to Rudolf Steiner.
The Sophia (Wisdom) of Christ is the mid-wife of the Pure Virgin Soul that longs to wed the Lamb of God in New Jerusalem where the Tree of Life springs anew. But the soul must first be prepared, become enlightened to some degree, and consciously begin on the path of initiation to meet and commune with higher beings in the spiritual world. Christ is now the Angel of Death, the Lord of Karma, and the ultimate Judge of the human soul.
Between Sophia and Christ we have been give the wisdom and love to conquer the three frightening beasts of the threshold, which are simply the unredeemed karma of past lives rising up and asking to be purified, forgiven, and transformed into a being who can develop new supersensible organs of perception. Once the aspirant becomes the initiate, the beasts that were met at the threshold of the Lesser Guardian can become good friends who remind us of what we must work on to tame the animal nature in our physical body. But just like the way to deal with the fierce beasts that the Tibetans describe in the Bardo realm after death, the antidote is to know that the beasts are you and that only love and commitment to the path of spiritual development for the sake of all other beings is the only way through. Embrace the dark doubles in your soul, in the lower self, and use them as a springboard to climb into the spiritual world with gratitude, awe, and wonder by transforming your lower desires into higher desires for enlightenment to gain wisdom to help all sentient beings – just as Christ Jesus did as a perfect example of human “I Am” development.
The human “I Am” is a 3-D shard of the cosmic whole and thus will evolve into what we see as the grandeur of the heavens, both in the day and the night. The whole solar system is mirrored in the human body and all that we see in the wide-reaches of the cosmos is also found in the human body, soul, and spirit. Whether we are looking at the birth of the human “I Am” in ancient times through the hierarchical gifts that gave us our minerals, plants, and animals, or we are looking at the Biography of the human “I Am” over all history, Christ is there helping shape, evolve, and sustain the development of His children – His “I Am” creations that He pours so much love into every moment of every day. So it seems logical that what Steiner’s clairvoyant perception has indicated that Christ in our day is the Greater Guardian of the Threshold and the Lord of Karma, is certainly true and can be experienced by any clairvoyant who looks into the etheric realm, that realm Steiner also calls Shambhala.
From Jesus to Christ, by Rudolf Steiner Lecture III, Karlsruhe, October 5-14, 1911, GA 131
“What is this event? It consists in the fact that a certain office in the Cosmos, connected with the evolution of humanity in the twentieth century, passes over in a heightened form to the Christ. Occult clairvoyant research tells us that in our epoch Christ becomes the Lord of Karma for human evolution. This event marks the beginning of something that we find intimated also in the New Testament in Acts 10:42:
“He will come again to separate, or to bring about the crisis for, the living and the dead.”
To testify that He is the one ordained by God to be Judge of the living and dead we can read in II Timothy 4:1-
“Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.”
Only, according to occult research, this is not to be understood as though it were a single event for all time which takes place on the physical plane. It is connected with the whole future evolution of humanity. And whereas Christianity and Christian evolution were hitherto a kind of preparation, we now have the significant fact that Christ becomes the Lord of Karma, so that in the future it will rest with Him to decide what our karmic account is, how our credit and debit in life are related.
Faith, Love, Hope: I, The Third Revelation to Mankind, by Rudolf Steiner Nuremberg, December 2-3, 1911
“In our time, however, a change is approaching, an important change which can be described in this way. Christ is becoming Lord of Karma for all those who, after death, have experienced what has just been discussed. Christ is entering upon His Judgeship. Let us look more closely into this fact. From the world-conception of Spiritual Science we all know that a karmic account is kept of our life; that there is a certain balancing of the deeds standing on the credit side of the account the sensible deeds, the fine deeds, those that are good – and, on the other side, the bad, ugly, lying deeds and thoughts.
Now it is important, on the one hand, that in the further course of a man’s earthly life he should himself adjust the balance of this karmic account. But this living out of the result of his good and splendid deeds, or those that are bad, can be done in many different ways. The particular adjustment in our future life is not always determined after the same pattern. Suppose someone has done a bad action; he must compensate for it by doing a good one. This good action, however, can be achieved in two ways, and it may require the same effort on the man’s part to do good to a few people only as to benefit a considerable number. To ensure that in future, when we have found our way to Christ, our karmic account will be balanced – inserted in the cosmic order – in such a way that the settlement of it will benefit as many people as possible – that will be the concern of Him who in our time is becoming Lord of Karma – it will be the concern of the Christ.
This taking over by Christ of the judging of a man’s deeds is a result of His direct intervention in human destiny. This intervention is not in a physical body, but on behalf of those men on earth who will increasingly acquire the capacity of perceiving Him. There will be people, for instance, who, while carrying out some deed, suddenly become aware – there will be more and more cases of this from now on, during the next 3,000 years – of an urge to refrain from what they are doing, because of a remarkable vision. They will perceive in a dreamlike way what appears to be an action of their own; yet they will not be able to remember having done it.
Those who are not prepared for such a thing to happen in the course of their evolution will look upon it merely as imagination run wild or as a pathological condition of the soul. Those, however, who are sufficiently prepared through the new revelation coming in our time to mankind through spiritual science – through, that is, this third revelation during the latest cycle of mankind – will realize that all this points to the growing of new human faculties enabling men to see into the spiritual world. They will also realize that this picture appearing to their soul is a forewarning of the karmic deed that must be brought about – either in this life on earth or in a later one – to compensate for what they have done.
In short, people will gradually achieve, through their own efforts, the faculty for perceiving in a vision the karmic adjustment, the compensating deed, which must come about in future. From this fact it can be seen that in our time, too, we should say, as did John the Baptist by the Jordan: Change your state of soul, for the time is coming when new faculties will awake in men.
But this form of karmic perception will arise in such a way that here and there the figure of the etheric Christ will be directly visible to some individual – the actual Christ as He is living in the astral world – not in a physical body, but as for the newly awakened faculties of men He will manifest on earth; as counselor and protector of those who need advice, help or solace in the loneliness of their lives.
The time is coming when human beings, when they feel depressed and miserable, for one or other reason, will increasingly find the help of their fellows less important and valuable. This is because the force of individuality, of individual life, will count for more and more, while the power of one man to work helpfully upon the soul of another, which held good in the past, will tend constantly to diminish. In its stead the Great Counselor will appear, in etheric form.
The best advice we can be given for the future is, therefore, to make our souls strong and full of energy, so that with increased strength, the further we advance into the future, whether in this incarnation – and certainly this applies to the young people of to-day – or in the next, we may realize that newly-awakened faculties give us knowledge of the great Counselor who is becoming at the same time the Judge of a Man’s Karma; knowledge, that is, of Christ in His new form. For those people who have already prepared themselves here for the Christ-event of the 20th century, it will make no difference whether they are in the physical body, when this event becomes a widespread experience, or have passed through the gate of death. Those who have passed through will still have the right understanding of the Christ-event and the right connection with it, but not those who have thoughtlessly passed by this third great forewarning to mankind given through Spiritual Science. For the Christ-event must be prepared for here on earth in the physical body. Those who go through the gate of death without giving even a glance into Spiritual Science during their present incarnation, will have to wait until their next before gaining a right understanding of the Christ-event. It is an actual fact that those who on the physical plane have never heard of the Christ-event are unable to came to an understanding of it between death and rebirth. They, too, must wait until they can prepare for it on their return to the physical plane. When, therefore, their present incarnation ends at death, these men in their essential being remain unconcerned in face of the mighty event referred to – the taking over of the Judgeship by Christ and the possibility of His intervening, in an etheric body, directly from the astral world in the evolution of mankind, and His becoming visible in various places.
Hence we have indicated that the Christ, in contradistinction as it were to the suffering Christ on Golgotha, is appearing now as Christ Triumphant, Christ the Lord of Karma. This has been fore-shadowed by those who have painted Him as the Christ of the Last Judgment. Whether painted or described in words, something is represented which at the appointed time will come to pass.
In truth, this begins in the 20th century and will hold good until the end of the earth. It is in our 20th century that this judgment, this ordering of Karma, begins, and we have seen how infinitely important it is for our age that this revelation should come to men in such a way that even concepts such as faith, love, hope, can be given their true valuation for the first time.
From Jesus to Christ, by Rudolf Steiner Lecture X, Karlsruhe, October 5-14, 1911
“The event now to come, which can be observed only in a super-sensible world, has been characterized in the words: ‘Christ becomes for men the Lord of Karma.’ This means that in future the ordering of karmic transactions will come about through Christ. Ever more and more will men of the future feel: ‘I am going through the gate of death with my karmic account. On one side stand my good, clever, and beautiful deeds, my clever, beautiful, good, and intelligent thoughts; on the other side stands everything evil, wicked, stupid, foolish, and loathsome. But He who in the future will have the office of Judge for the incarnations which will follow in human evolution, in order to bring order into this karmic account of men, is the Christ!’ And truly we have to picture this in the following way: After we have gone through the gate of death, we shall be incarnated again in a later period. We shall then have to encounter events through which our karma can be balanced, for every man must reap what he has sown. Karma is a just law. But what the karmic law has to fulfill is not there only for individual men. Karma does not only balance the accounts of each Ego, but in every case the balancing must be arranged so as to be in the best possible accord with the concerns of the whole world. It must enable us to give all possible help to the advancement of mankind on earth. For this we need enlightenment, not merely the knowledge that the karmic fulfillment of our deed must come about. The fulfillment can take a form which will be either less or more useful for the general progress of humanity. Hence we must choose those thoughts, feelings or perceptions which will pay off our karma and at the same time serve the collective progress of mankind. In the future it will fall to Christ to bring the balance of our karma into line with the general Earth-karma and the general progress of humanity. And this happens principally in the time between death and a new birth. But it will also be prepared for in the epoch of time we are now approaching, before whose door we stand, because men will more and more acquire the capacity for a special experience. Very few are capable of it now, but from the middle of this century onwards, through the next 1,000 years, more and more people will have the following experience.
This transformation of the human soul will derive from the Event which begins in the twentieth century and may be called the second Christ-Event, so that those persons in whom higher faculties have awakened will look upon the Lord of Karma. Some of you may say that when the Christ-Event of the twentieth century takes place, many of those now living will be with those who have fallen asleep, will be in the time between death and a new birth. But whether a person is living in a physical body, or in the time between death and a new birth, if he has prepared himself for the Christ-Event, he will experience it. The vision of the Christ-Event does not depend on whether we are incarnated in a physical body, but the preparation for the Christ-Event does so depend. Just as it was necessary that the first Christ-Event should take place on the physical plane in order that the salvation of man could be accomplished, so must the preparation be made here in the physical world, the preparation to look with full understanding, with full illumination, upon the Christ-Event of the twentieth century. For a person who looks upon it unprepared, when his powers have been awakened, will not be able to understand it. The Lord of Karma will then appear to him as a fearful judgment. In order to have an illuminated understanding of this Event, the individual must be prepared. The spreading abroad of the anthroposophical world-conception has taken place in our time for this purpose, so that men can be prepared on the physical plane to perceive the Christ-Event either on the physical plane or on the higher planes. Those who are not sufficiently prepared on the physical plane, and then go unprepared through the life between death and a new birth, will have to wait until, in the next incarnation, they can be further prepared through Anthroposophy for the understanding of Christ. During the next 3,000 years the opportunity will be given to men of going through this preparation, and the purpose of all anthroposophical development will be to render men more and more capable of participating in that which is to come.
The Three Paths of the Soul to Christ, by Rudolf Steiner, Stockholm April 16-17, 1912
Men will learn as we approach the future that they were united with Christ before birth, that they have received from him the grace of discharging their old Karma in the incarnations.
Thus did the men of the fourth post-Atlantean period look up to Jesus of Nazareth as the bearer of the Christ. Thus will the men of our time learn that the Christ will reveal himself ever more supersensibly, and will govern more and more the threads of Karma in the affairs of the earth. They will learn to know that spiritual power as that destiny which the Greeks could not yet recognize, which will bring men to the point of discharging their Karma in the most fitting way in the successive incarnations. As to a Judge, as to a Lord of Karma, men will look up to the Christ in the succession of incarnations, when they experience their destiny. Thus men will stand in such a relation to their destiny that they will be stimulated increasingly to deepen their souls, until they can say to themselves: “This destiny is not allotted to me through an impersonal power, this destiny is allotted to me through that with which I feel myself related in my inmost being. In Karma itself I perceive what is related to my being. My Karma is dear to me because it makes me better and better.” Thus one learns to love Karma, and then this is the impulse to know the Christ. Men first learned to love their Karma through the Mystery of Golgotha. And this will continue further and further, and men will learn more and more that under Lucifer’s influence alone the earth would never have been able to reach its goal, that the evolution of mankind would have had to become more and more corrupt without the Christ.
Esoteric Lessons, by Rudolf Steiner, November 1, 1904, GA 266
“There is nothing in the evolution of man which is not subject to the metamorphosis of taking and giving. This conditions our ethical behavior in the highest degree. Whatever we take we may take only in order to give it forth again. The Dhyanic Beings at earlier stages of their evolution passed through the phase of taking, therefore on the Earth they are now ‘giving’ Beings. From the very beginning they were the actual Builders. When the one Globe split into many, these Beings were the Builders. At the second stage they organized these Globes according to measure, number, and weight. At the third stage they introduced the law of Elective Affinity, of sympathy and antipathy. At the fourth stage they rule over Birth and Death, over Karma. They, the Dhyanis, are the Lords of Karma, the Lipikas, who are above all ‘taking’, above sympathy and antipathy. They intervened at the fourth stage of consciousness, the stage of Day Consciousness. New Builders constantly intervene at the stage of evolution that has been attained by man. Let us try to understand the nature of these Builders. Beings at the human stage receive and give alternately. We can give only what we have first received. Man is subject, alternately, to perception, taking in, and to activity that is subject to the law of giving. The law of the Builders is the Law of Manifestation, their activity is called revealed, manifested activity. The ordering of the world according to measure, number and weight, sympathy and antipathy, the division into Good and Evil. There is a vast difference between the self-manifesting Beings and man.”
The Greater Guardian of the Threshold is Christ, Secrets of the Threshold, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture VII
“Our true ego is actually our constant companion within us, but when we meet it on the threshold of the spiritual world, it is there in a remarkable way, in fact one can say, decked out quite peculiarly. There on the threshold our true ego is able to clothe itself in all our weaknesses, all our failings, everything that induces us to cling with our whole being either to the physical sense world or at least to the elemental world. Thus we confront our own true ego on the threshold.”
Foundations of Esotericism, by Rudolf Steiner, Lecture II, September 27, 1905, Berlin
“Before the human being as pupil is led to that point at which of his own choice he can work on his etheric body, he must at least, to a certain extent be able to evaluate karma in order to achieve self-knowledge. Meditation therefore should not be undertaken without continual self-knowledge, self-observation. By this means, at the right moment man will behold the Guardian of the Threshold: the karma which he has still to pay back. When one reaches this stage under normal conditions it merely signifies the recognition of his still existing karma. If I begin to work into my etheric body, I must make it my aim to balance my still remaining karma. It can happen that the Guardian of the Threshold appears in an abnormal way. This happens when a person is so strongly attracted to one particular life between birth and death, that because of the very slight degree of inner activity he cannot remain long enough in Devachan. If someone has accustomed himself to be too outward looking, he has nothing to see within. He then soon comes back into physical life. His desires remain present, the short Devachan is soon over, and when he returns, the collective form of his earlier desires still exists in Kamaloka; he comes up against this also. He incarnates. The old is then mingled with his new astral body. This is his previous karma, the Guardian of the Threshold. He then has his earlier karma continually before him. This is a specific form of the Double.
Many of the popes of the notorious papal age, as for example Alexander VI, have had such a Double in their next incarnation. There are people, and at present this is not infrequent, who have their previous lower nature continually beside them. That is a special kind of insanity. It will become ever stronger and more threatening because materialistic life becomes ever more widespread. Many people who now yield themselves up completely to materialistic life will in their next incarnation have the abnormal form of the Guardian of the Threshold at their side. If now the influence of spirituality were not to be very strongly exercised, a kind of epidemic seeing of the Guardian of the Threshold would arise as the result of the materialistic civilization. Of this the neurotic tendency of our century is the precursor. It is a kind of losing oneself in the periphery. All the neurotics of today will be harassed by the Guardian of the Threshold in their next incarnation. They will be pursued by the difficulties of a too early incarnation, a sort of cosmic premature birth. What we have to strive for in Theosophy is a sufficiently long time in Devachan, in order to avoid too early incarnations.
From this aspect we must consider the entrance of Christ into world history. Previously, anyone who wished to achieve a life in Christ had to enter into a Mystery school. There a state of lethargy was induced in the physical body and only through the purified priesthood could there be added to the astral body what was still needed for its purification. This constituted initiation.
But through the coming of Christ into the world, it came about that a man who felt himself drawn to Christ could receive from him something which could take the place of this old form of initiation. It is always possible that someone through union with Christ can preserve his astral body in so purified a condition that he is able to work into his etheric body without doing harm to the world. When one bears this in mind the expression ‘vicarious atonement through death’ receives a quite other significance. This is what is meant by the atoning death of Christ. Before this, death in the Mysteries had to be suffered by everyone who wished to obtain purification. Now the One suffered for all, so that through the world-historic initiation a substitute has been created for the old form of initiation.”
The Four Mystery Plays, by Rudolf Steiner
The Guardian of the Threshold, Scene 7
The Guardian speaks:
What unchecked wish doth sound within mine ear?
So storm men’s souls when first approaching me
E’er they have fully gained tranquility.
It is desire that really leads such men
And not creative power which dares to speak;
Since it in silence could itself create.
The souls which thus comport themselves when here
I needs must relegate again to Earth,
For in the Spirit-realm they can but sow
Confusion, and do but disturb the deeds
Which cosmic powers have wisely foreordained.
Such men can also injure their own selves
Who form destructive passions in their hearts
Which are mistaken for creative powers,
Since they must take delusion for the truth
When earthly darkness no more shelters them.
The Guardian Speaks:
Thomasius, think well what thou dost know.
What o’er this threshold lives is all unknown;
Yet dost thou know quite well all I must ask,
Before thou canst set foot within this realm.
Thou must first part with many of those powers
Which thou hast won when in thine earthly frame.
Out of them all thou canst alone retain
That which by efforts, pure and spiritual,
Thou didst achieve, and which thou hast kept pure.
But this thou hast thyself cast off from thee
And given as his own to Ahriman.
What still is thine hath been by Lucifer
Destroyed for use within the spirit-world.
This too upon the threshold I must take
If thou wouldst really pass this portal by.
So naught remains to thee; a lifeless life
Must be thy lot within the spirit-realms.
Knowledge of the Higher Worlds And Its Attainment, by Rudolf Steiner
From: The Guardian of the Threshold, Section X, GA 10
“The important experiences marking the student’s ascent into the higher worlds include his meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold. Strictly speaking there are two Guardians: a lesser and a 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 attempt will now be made to describe in narrative form this meeting with the lesser Guardian of the Threshold, as a result of which the student learns that his thinking, feeling, and willing have become released within him from their inherent connection.
A truly terrible spectral being confronts him, and he will need all the presence of mind and faith in the security of his path which he has had ample opportunity to acquire in the course of his previous training.
The Guardian proclaims his signification somewhat in the following words:
“Hitherto, powers invisible to thyself watched over thee. They saw to it that in the course of thy lives each of thy good deeds brought its reward, and each of thine evil deeds was attended by its evil results. Thanks to their influence thy character formed itself out of thy life-experiences and thy thoughts. They were the instruments of thy destiny. They ordained that measure of joy and pain allotted to thee in thine incarnations, according to thy conduct in lives gone by. They ruled over thee as the all-embracing law of karma. These powers will now partly release thee from their constraining influence; and henceforth must thou accomplish for thyself a part of the work which hitherto they performed for thee. Destiny struck thee many a hard blow in the past. Thou knewest not why. Each blow was the consequence of a harmful deed in a bygone life. Thou foundest joy and gladness, and thou didst take them as they came. They, too, were the fruits of former deeds. Thy character shows many a beautiful side, and many an ugly flaw. Thou hast thyself to thank for both, for they are the result of thy previous experiences and thoughts. These were till now unknown to thee; their effects alone were made manifest. The karmic powers, however, beheld all thy deeds in former lives, and all thy most secret thoughts and feelings, and determined accordingly thy present self and thy present mode of life. But now all the good and evil sides of thy bygone lives shall be revealed to thee. Hitherto they were interwoven with thine own being; they were in thee and thou couldst not see them, even as thou canst not behold thine own brain with physical eyes. But now they become released from thee; they detach themselves from thy personality. They assume an independent form which thou canst see even as thou beholdest the stones and plants of the outer world. And . . . I am that very being who shaped my body out of thy good and evil achievements. My spectral form is woven out of thine own life’s record. Till now thou hast borne me invisibly within thee, and it was well that this was so; for the wisdom of thy destiny, though concealed from thee, could thus work within thee, so that the hideous stains on my form should be blotted out. Now that I have come forth from within thee, that concealed wisdom, too, has departed from thee. It will pay no further heed to thee; it will leave the work in thy hands alone. I must become a perfect and glorious being, or fall a prey to corruption; and should this occur, I would drag thee also down with me into a dark and corrupt world. If thou wouldst avoid this, then thine own wisdom must become great enough to undertake the task of that other, concealed wisdom, which has departed from thee. As a form visible to thyself I will never for an instant leave thy side once thou hast crossed my Threshold. And in future, whenever thou dost act or think wrongly thou wilt straightway perceive thy guilt as a hideous, demoniacal distortion of my form. Only when thou hast made good all thy bygone wrongs and hast so purified thyself that all further evil is, for thee, a thing impossible, only then will my being have become transformed into radiant beauty. Then, too, shall I again become united with thee for the welfare of thy future activity.
Yet my Threshold is fashioned out of all the timidity that remains in thee, out of all the dread of the strength needed to take full responsibility for all thy thoughts and actions. As long as there remains in thee a trace of fear of becoming thyself the guide of thine own destiny, just so long will this Threshold lack what still remains to be built into it. And as long as a single stone is found missing, just so long must thou remain standing as though transfixed, or else stumble. Seek not, then, to cross this Threshold until thou dost feel thyself entirely free from fear and ready for the highest responsibility. Hitherto I only emerged from thy personality when death recalled thee from an earthly life; but even then my form was veiled from thee. Only the powers of destiny who watched over thee beheld me and could thus, in the intervals between death and a new birth, build in thee, in accordance with my appearance, that power and capacity thanks to which thou couldst labor in a new earth life at the beautifying of my form, for thy welfare and progress. It was I, too, whose imperfection ever and again constrained the powers of destiny to lead thee back to a new incarnation upon earth. I was present at the hour of thy death, and it was on my account that the Lords of Karma ordained thy reincarnation. And it is only by thus unconsciously transforming me to complete perfection in ever recurring earthly lives that thou couldst have escaped the powers of death and passed over into immortality united with me.
Visible do I thus stand before thee today, just as I have ever stood invisible beside thee in the hour of death. When thou shalt have crossed my Threshold, thou wilt enter those realms to which thou hast hitherto only had access after physical death. Thou dost now enter them with full knowledge, and henceforth as thou wanderest outwardly visible upon the earth thou wilt at the same time wander in the kingdom of death, that is, in the kingdom of life eternal. I am indeed the Angel of Death; but I am at the same time the bearer of a higher life without end. Through me thou wilt die with thy body still living, to be reborn into an imperishable existence.
Into this kingdom thou art now entering, thou wilt meet beings that are supersensible, and happiness will be thy lot. But I myself must provide thy first acquaintance with that world, and I am thine own creation. Formerly I drew my life from thine; but now thou hast awakened me to a separate existence so that I stand before thee as the visible gauge of thy future deeds – perhaps, too, as thy constant reproach. Thou hast formed me, but by so doing thou hast undertaken, as thy duty, to transform me.”
The Guardian must warn him not to go a step further unless he feels in himself the strength to fulfill the demands made in the above speech. However horrible the form assumed by the Guardian, it is only the effect of the student’s own past life, his own character risen out of him into independent existence. This awakening is brought about by the separation of will, thought, and feeling. To feel for the first time that one has oneself called a spiritual being into existence is in itself an experience of deepest significance. The student’s preparation must aim at enabling him to endure the terrible sight without a trace of timidity and, at the moment of the meeting, to feel his strength so increased that he can undertake fully conscious the responsibility for transforming and beautifying the Guardian.
Only the esoteric student learns what it means to be entirely cut off from his family, national, or racial spirit. He alone realizes, through personal experience, the insignificance of all such education in respect of the life now confronting him. For everything inculcated by education completely melts away when the threads binding will, thought, and feeling are severed. He looks back on the result of all his previous education as he might on a house crumbling away brick by brick, which he must now rebuild in a new form. And again, it is more than a mere symbolical expression to say that when the Guardian has enunciated his first statement, there arises from the spot where he stands a whirlwind which extinguishes all those spiritual lights that have hitherto illumined the pathway of his life. Utter darkness, relieved only by the rays issuing from the Guardian himself, unfolds before the student. And out of this darkness resounds the Guardian’s further admonition:
‘Step not across my Threshold until thou dost clearly realize that thou wilt thyself illumine the darkness ahead of thee; take not a single step forward until thou art positive that thou hast sufficient oil in thine own lamp. The lamps of the guides whom thou hast hitherto followed will now no longer be available to thee.’
At these words, the student must turn and glance backward. The Guardian of the Threshold now draws aside a veil which till now had concealed deep life-mysteries. The family, national, and racial spirits are revealed to the student in their full activity, so that he perceives clearly on the one hand, how he has hitherto been led, and no less clearly on the other hand, that he will henceforward no longer enjoy this guidance. That is the second warning received at the Threshold from its Guardian.
Without preparation, no one could endure the sight of what has here been indicated. But the higher training which makes it possible at all for the student to advance up to the Threshold simultaneously puts him in a position to find the necessary strength at the right moment. Indeed, the training can be so harmonious in its nature that the entry into the higher life is relieved of everything of an agitating or tumultuous character. His experience at the Threshold will then be attended by a premonition of that felicity which is to provide the keynote of his newly awakened life. The feeling of a new freedom will outweigh all other feelings; and attended by this feeling, his new duties and responsibilities will appear as something which man, at a particular stage of life, must needs take upon himself.”
Life and Death: The Greater Guardian of the Threshold, Section XI, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, by Rudolf Steiner
“It has been described in the foregoing chapter how significant for the human being is his meeting with the so-called lesser Guardian of the Threshold by virtue of the fact that he becomes aware of confronting a supersensible being whom he has himself brought into existence, and whose body consists of the hitherto invisible results of the student’s own actions, feelings, and thoughts. These unseen forces have become the cause of his destiny and his character, and he realizes how he himself founded the present in the past. He can understand why his inner self, now standing to a certain extent revealed before him, includes particular inclinations and habits, and he can also recognize the origin of certain blows of fate that have befallen him. He perceives why he loves one thing and hates another; why one thing makes him happy and another unhappy. Visible life is explained by the invisible causes. The essential facts of life, too – health and illness, birth, and death – unveil themselves before his gaze. He observes how before his birth he wove the causes which necessarily led to his return into life. Henceforth he knows that being within himself which is fashioned with all its imperfections in the visible world, and which can only be brought to its final perfection in this same visible world. For in no other world is an opportunity given to build up and complete this being. Moreover, he recognizes that death cannot sever him forever from this world.
The Threshold to the supersensible world is watched over by a Guardian and in no case may real insight into those regions be permitted to anyone lacking the requisite faculties; therefore, when at the hour of death anyone enters the other world while still incompetent to work in it, the higher experiences are shrouded from him until he is fit to behold them.
Thus, the first Guardian confronts man as the counterpart of his two-fold nature in which perishable and imperishable are blended; and it stands clearly proved how far removed he still is from attaining that sublime luminous figure which may again dwell in the pure, spiritual world. The extent to which he is entangled in the physical sense-world is exposed to the student’s view. The presence of instincts, impulses, desires, egotistical wishes, and all forms of selfishness, and so forth, expresses itself in this entanglement, as it does further in his membership in a race, a nation, and so forth; for peoples and races are but steps leading to pure humanity.
Now in the Guardian of the Threshold as described above, the product of the past is manifest, containing only so many seeds of the future as could be planted in the course of time. For this reason the lesser Guardian of the Threshold is joined, after a time, by the greater Guardian. The meeting with the second Guardian will again be described in narrative form.
When the student has recognized all the elements from which he must liberate himself, his way is barred by a sublime luminous being whose beauty is difficult to describe in the words of human language. This encounter takes place when the sundering of the organs of thinking, feeling, and willing extends to the physical body, so that their reciprocal connection is no longer regulated by themselves but by the higher consciousness, which has now entirely liberated itself from physical conditions. The organs of thinking, feeling and willing will then be controlled from supersensible regions as instruments in the power of the human soul. The latter, thus liberated from all physical bonds, is now confronted by the second Guardian of the Threshold who speaks as follows:
‘Thou hast released thyself from the world of the senses. Thou hast won the right to become a citizen of the supersensible world, whence thine activity can now be directed. For thine own sake, thou dost no longer require thy physical body in its present form. If thine intention were merely to acquire the faculties necessary for life in the supersensible world, thou need no longer return to the sense-world. But now behold me. See how sublimely I tower above all that thou hast made of thyself thus far. Thou hast attained thy present degree of perfection thanks to the faculties thou wert able to develop in the sense-world as long as thou wert still confined to it. But now a new era is to begin, in which thy liberated powers must be applied to further work in the world of the senses. Hitherto thou hast sought only thine own release, but now, having thyself become free, thou canst go forth as a liberator of thy fellows. Until today thou hast striven as an individual, but now seek to coordinate thyself with the whole, so that thou mayst bring into the supersensible world not thyself alone, but all things else existing in the world of the senses. Thou wilt someday be able to unite with me, but I cannot be blessed so long as others remain unredeemed. As a separate freed being, thou wouldst fain enter at once the kingdom of the supersensible; yet thou wouldst be forced to look down on the still unredeemed beings in the physical world, having sundered thy destiny from theirs, although thou and they are inseparably united. Ye all did perforce descend into the sense-world to gather powers needed for a higher world. To separate thyself from thy fellows would mean to abuse those very powers which thou couldst not have developed save in their company. Thou couldst not have descended had they not done so; and without them the powers needed for supersensible existence would fail thee. Thou must now share with thy fellows the powers which, together with them, thou didst acquire. I shall therefore bar thine entry into the higher regions of the supersensible world so long as thou hast not applied all the powers thou hast acquired to the liberation of thy companions. With the powers already at thy disposal thou mayst sojourn in the lower regions of the supersensible world; but I stand before the portal of the higher regions as the Cherub with the fiery sword before Paradise, and I bar thine entrance as long as powers unused in the sense-world still remain in thee. And if thou dost refuse to apply thy powers in this world, others will come who will not refuse; and a higher supersensible world will receive all the fruits of the sense-world, while thou wilt lose from under thy feet the very ground in which thou wert rooted. The purified world will develop above and beyond thee, and thou shalt be excluded from it. Thus thou wouldst tread the black path, while the others from whom thou didst sever thyself tread the white path.’
With these words the greater Guardian makes his presence known soon after the meeting with the first Guardian has taken place. The initiate knows full well what is in store for him if he yields to the temptation of a premature abode in the supersensible world. An indescribable splendor shines forth from the second Guardian of the Threshold; union with him looms as a far distant ideal before the soul’s vision. Yet there is also the certitude that this union will not be possible until all the powers afforded by this world are applied to the task of its liberation and redemption. By fulfilling the demands of the higher light-being the initiate will contribute to the liberation of the human race. He lays his gifts on the sacrificial altar of humanity. Should he prefer his own premature elevation into the supersensible world, the stream of human evolution will flow over and past him. After his liberation he can gain no new powers from the world of the senses; and if he places his work at the world’s disposal it will entail his renouncement of any further benefit for himself.
Secrets of the Threshold, by Rudolf Steiner, Lecture VIII, Munich, August 31, 1913, GA 147
“We have seen how necessary it is – in order to cross the threshold rightly and enter the spiritual world with clairvoyant consciousness – to leave behind us all the perceptions of the physical world as well as everything we ordinarily think, feel, and will in this world. We have to be prepared to confront beings and happenings whose characteristics bear no relation at all to what can be perceived in the sense world. First, we have to strengthen the soul and its faculties, and then these strengthened, fortified soul faculties must be carried upwards with us. When we cross the threshold into the spirit realm, we must take something with us. We have pointed out that everything the sense world can give us, as well as the ideas and feelings we acquire there, are all images of what is perceptible to the senses. Nothing we acquire in this way can be of use in the spiritual world.
We must therefore acquire concepts, feelings, and ideas for the realm of the spirit if we really wish to cross the threshold, and while these must indeed be invoked by the physical, they will nevertheless have to rise above the physical-sense realm. Then with strengthened soul we will cross the threshold and become familiar with this world already characterized as a place of living thought-beings, engaged in spiritual conversation. With our strengthened soul we will become familiar with a world of beings that consist of thought-substance; through this thought-substance they are more alive, more individual, more real than any human being on earth. These beings within their thought-substance are just as real as any man of flesh and blood on the physical plane. We can gradually find our way in this world where a thought-language passes between one being and another, and where our soul is forced to carry on thought-conversations with the thought-beings if we want to arrive at a relationship with them.
A person lives in his physical body in the physical world around him. When he comes away from it and has experiences outside the physical body, he is having those experiences in his etheric body with the elemental world around him; and when he comes out of that world as well, he is experiencing the spiritual realm in his astral body. With this experience – feeling oneself in the astral body – there will be a meeting in the spiritual world, the meeting with the other self, the second self, of which Johannes Thomasius speaks at the end of The Guardian of the Threshold, and which stands throughout the whole action of The Souls’ Awakening at the side of the first self of Johannes Thomasius, summoning forth his experiences. Let me describe the essence of this other self; it is what a person comes to recognize when he learns within his astral body to perceive and feel and observe in the spiritual world. It is what lives from one life on earth to another, from incarnation to incarnation. In moving from one life on earth to the next one, between death and a new birth, it weaves itself so mysteriously into our being that the physical consciousness usually cannot perceive this other self, for it is actually within the spiritual world even though bound up with our physical being.
How is this other self active? It has just been said that it belongs to the realm of the spirit as a living thought-being among other living thought-beings, whose words are deeds; they accomplish all they do through what we can call Inspiration. The second self acts inspiringly in man’s nature. What does it inspire? Our karma, our destiny. Here we discover a mysterious process: whatever our experience, whether painful or joyous, whatever it is that happens in our life, it is inspired by our other self, working from the spiritual world into this one. If you are walking along the street and something happens to you that seems accidental, it is inspired by your other self from out of the spiritual world. So you see that something like Inspiration in the spiritual world reveals itself on the physical plane and brings about your destiny in large and small happenings. Your destiny is inspired by your other self, out of the realm of the spirit.
A clairvoyant soul entering this realm perceives in the spirit-conversation a revelation of what can be put into the phrase: words are deeds. However, everything that happens in the spiritual world stamps itself upon the physical world. Whether you see a stone, a plant, a cloud, or lightning – behind all these stand spiritual beings and spiritual processes. Furthermore, behind the physical events of your destiny stand spiritual beings and spiritual processes. What are they? Inspirations! They are brought about by a conversation in the spiritual world. The cosmic Word is active as the inspirer of human destiny! This is of great significance for your spiritual perception on meeting your other self. You no longer think then of your human personality within its ordinary limits alone, for you extend yourself – and this must include your other self – to cover your entire destiny. You are only then a truly whole human being when – in just the same way that you say, “This finger is part of myself and belongs on the physical plane to my ego” – you also say, “It is part of myself to bang my thumb or take a painful fall, for all these things are inspired by my other self.”
However, we must bear in mind just how we meet this other self on crossing the threshold into the realm of spirit. Again and again we must recollect and make clear to ourselves that in all we have learned, observed, and experienced in the physical world and even in the elemental world, there is nothing in them similar to the characteristics of the spiritual world where thoughts are living beings. If we were to enter the spirit realm only with what we have discovered in the physical and elemental worlds, then we would be confronting nothingness. What indeed can we bring into this realm? Let us consider the question carefully. The soul must become accustomed not to perceive or think or feel or will in the spirit realm as it does in the physical or in the elemental worlds. All of that must be left behind. However, it must remember what it perceived, thought, felt, willed in the physical world. Just as we carry into later periods of life the memories of earlier times, so must we carry over into the spirit realm out of the physical plane everything that has been strengthened and invigorated in our soul. We must enter the spiritual world with a soul that recollects the physical world.
A Theosophical View of the Guardian of the Threshold
We all move about in the spiritual world in the form of our other self, but there we are entirely another. When we dwell consciously in the physical world, our other self is actually very much another, a stranger to us, a being that is much more foreign to us than any other person on earth. Abstract theosophy can simply say: that is oneself, the other self, the true ego. But in the face of the actual reality, we won’t find much meaning in the phrase: it is oneself. And this other self, this true ego, decks itself out in our weaknesses, in everything we should really forsake but don’t wish to forsake, habits of the physical sense existence that we still hang on to when we wish to cross the threshold. And there on the threshold we actually meet a spirit being different from all other spiritual beings we could meet in the super-sensible worlds. The other beings appear to us in coverings more appropriate to their nature than those of the Guardian of the Threshold. He arrays himself in everything that arouses in us not only anxiety and distress but also disgust and loathing. He clothes himself in our weaknesses, in things that bring us to admit: Our fear of separating from him makes us shudder, or it makes us blush, overcome with shame, to have to look at what we are, at what the Guardian has wrapped himself in. While indeed this is a meeting with oneself, it is more truly the meeting with another entity.
To get past the Guardian of the Threshold is not at all easy. Actually it is much easier to behold the spiritual world than it is to behold it rightly and truthfully. To catch a few impressions of the spiritual world, especially in our modern time, is not all that difficult. To enter that world, however, in such a way that we behold it in its full reality, we must be well prepared for the meeting with the Guardian, however long it delays in coming to us; then we will experience the spiritual world correctly. Most people, or at least very many of them, get as far as the Guardian. The important point is that we should come consciously to him. Every night we stand unconsciously before the Guardian. Certainly he is a great benefactor of mankind in not allowing himself to be seen, for very few human beings could endure it. To bring into consciousness what we experience every night unconsciously is to meet the Guardian of the Threshold. People usually get just to the edge of the boundary where, one can say, the Guardian stands. But at that moment, something very peculiar happens to the soul: it perceives this moment in a twilight state between consciousness and unconsciousness and will not allow it to come to full consciousness. On that borderline the soul has the impulse to see itself as it really is, clinging to the physical world with all its weaknesses and faults, but this is unbearable. Before the event can become fully conscious, the soul – through its utter loathing – deadens, as it were, its awareness. Such moments of the soul’s obliterating its consciousness are the best points of attack for the ahrimanic beings.
We come indeed to the Guardian of the Threshold by developing a sense of self that is especially strong and forceful. We have to strengthen our sense of self if we wish to rise into the spiritual world. But in the process of strengthening our sense of self, we also strengthen all the tendencies, habits, weaknesses, and prejudices that are held back and limited in the external world through our education, through custom and through the outward culture. On the threshold, the luciferic impulses assert themselves strongly from within, and when the human soul tends to deaden its awareness, Lucifer immediately unites with Ahriman, with the result that the entrance to the spiritual world is barred.
If a person with a healthy inner life searches out the insights of spiritual science without dwelling in a state of morbid craving for spiritual experiences, nothing particularly harmful will happen at the boundary line. If he attends to everything that should be attended to in the form of rightful, genuine spiritual science, nothing more will happen than that Lucifer and Ahriman balance each other for the striving soul at the threshold and the soul simply does not enter the spiritual world. But when the person has a special craving to get in, a so-called “nibbling at the spiritual world” can take place. Ahriman then, condensing what the soul has “nibbled,” pushes into the soul’s consciousness what otherwise couldn’t enter it. With this, the person experiences in condensed form what he has taken from the spiritual world, so that it looks exactly like the reproduction of physical impressions. In short, he will be the victim of hallucinations and illusions; he will believe he has approached a spiritual world, because he has come as far as the Guardian of the Threshold. However, he has not passed the Guardian but has been thrown back because of his nibbling at the spiritual world. Everything he took in has condensed to what could contain genuine pictures of that world but does not contain the most important element, the one that will guarantee the soul a clear perception of the truth and the value of what he sees. In order to pass the Guardian of the Threshold in the right way, it is absolutely necessary to develop self-knowledge: truly genuine, unsparing self-knowledge.
T. Subba Row on the Dweller of the Threshold
T. Subba Row described the image of the Dweller as being similar to that of the battle described in the Bhagavad Gita. He wrote:
“Philosophically it is the great battle in which the human Spirit has to fight against the lower passions in the physical body. Many of our readers have probably heard about the so-called ‘Dweller on the Threshold,’ so vividly described in Lytton’s novel, Zanoni. According to this author’s description, the Dweller on the Threshold seems to be some elemental, or other monster of mysterious form, appearing before the neophyte just as he is about to enter the mysterious land, and attempting to shake his resolution with menaces of unknown dangers if he is not fully prepared.
There is no such monster in reality. The description must be taken in a figurative sense. But nevertheless there is a Dweller on the Threshold, whose influence on the mental plane is far more trying than any physical terror can be. The real Dweller on the Threshold is formed of the despair and despondency of the neophyte, who is called upon to give up all his old affections for kindred, parents, and children, as well as his aspirations for objects of worldly ambition, which have perhaps been his associates for many incarnations. When called upon to give up these things, the neophyte feels a kind of blank before he realizes his higher possibilities. After having given up all his associations, his life itself seems to vanish into thin air. He seems to have lost all hope, and to have no object to live and work for. He sees no signs of his own future progress. All before him seems darkness; and a sort of pressure comes upon the soul, under which it begins to droop, and in most cases he begins to fall back and gives up further progress. But in the case of a man who really struggles, he will battle against that despair, and be able to proceed on the Path.
We are each of us called upon to kill out all our passions and desires, not that they are all necessarily evil in themselves, but that their influence must be annihilated before we can establish ourselves on the higher planes. The position of Arjuna is intended to typify that of a chela, who is called upon to face the Dweller on the Threshold.”
The Dweller of the Threshold, by Franz Hartmann, M.D.
Reprinted from The Theosophist, Vol. XI, 1889
“The Dweller of the Threshold guards the door to the Temple of Truth and must be conquered before we can enter.”Franz Hartmann
“Our readers may have read his description in Bulwer Lytton’s Zanoni; where Glyndon, during the temporary absence of the Adept, impelled by his own curiosity to learn the forbidden mysteries of the latter, invaded the laboratory and is frightened out of his wits by the appearance of the horrible specter which is henceforth his unwelcome companion for life. When he submits to the demands of his lower self, and revels in sensual pleasures, the hag disappears; but whenever he attempts to rise above that level, then she steps forth with her hateful eyes and seeks to drag him with her long fingers into her cold embrace.
This Dweller of the Threshold meets us in many shapes. It is the Cerberus guarding the entrance to Hades; the Dragon which St. Michael is going to tame; 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 until the king (Ambition, Pride, Vanity, Self-righteousness, etc.) is dethroned or dead. Many times Christ flees before Herod and cannot return at all; because Herod lives and rules until the house of life – the temple of the divine Christ – is destroyed by death. All such accounts are allegories, representing a real truth, whose knowledge is of the greatest importance; for it is the beginning of the Great Work; and he who does not know how to begin will not accomplish much.
The Dweller of the Threshold, the Dragon of mediaeval symbolism, is nothing else but our own lower semi-animal, animal, or perhaps brutish self, that combination of material and semi-material principles which form the lower ego, which the great majority of men blindly and lovingly hug and caress, because they love themselves. Man does not see its true qualities as long as he clings to it, else he would perhaps be disgusted with it; but when he attempts to penetrate within the portals of the paradise of the soul; when his self-consciousness begins to become centered in his higher self, then the Dweller of the Threshold becomes objective to him, and he may be terrified at its (his own) ugliness and deformity.
Let us examine the attributes of that semi-animal self: First of all we see that it is the residence of animal instincts and passions, which represent themselves to the interior eye in semi-animal and animal forms; for external forms on the astral plane are the external expressions of internal principles; a psychic activity will produce a corresponding form. In it reside the animal sensations and the calculating intellect with all its cunning, sophistry, and craftiness, personal will and the love of illusions.
Proud of his supposed possession of the true light, he neglects to seek deeper. He rests self-satisfied in his acquired false learning and falls a prey to the dragon. He cannot conquer the Dweller of the Threshold, nor does he wish to do so, because he is himself that Dweller, and is in love with himself. He does not want to enter the temple, and does not perhaps even know that the temple exists.
To practice Alchemy and to exercise spiritual power, one must be spiritually developed. The first step to this development is the conquering of the Dweller of the Threshold, and the key to the position is the displacement of the love of self by the love of eternal Good, which finds its expression in the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, the fundamental principle upon which the Theosophical Society rests.”
The Dweller, by James LeFevour, From Theosophy, March 14, 2021
“The Dweller on the Threshold is considered a necessary trial for those on the path. It comes to those whose clairvoyant vision is opening up and the veil is lifted. One sees beneficent things but also, eventually, the Dweller.
The Dweller on the Threshold was first introduced to the public in 1842 in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Zanoni. In the book it is a cruel entity that embodies the sum total of all the ill will and selfish acts the person has performed throughout the incarnations he or she lived.
In the book Zanoni, the dweller is described:
“All else so dark, – shrouded, veiled and larva-like. But that burning glare so intense, so livid, yet so living, had in it something that was almost Human in its passion of hate and mockery, – something that served to show that the shadowy Horror was not all a spirit, but partook of matter enough, at least, to make it more deadly and fearful an enemy to material forms. As, clinging with the grasp of agony to the wall, – his hair erect, his eyeballs starting, he still gazed back upon that appalling gaze, – the Image spoke to him: his soul rather than his ear comprehended the words it said. ‘Thou hast entered the immeasurable region. I am the Dweller of the Threshold. What wouldst thou with me? Silent? Dost thou fear me? Am I not thy beloved? Is it not for me that thou hast rendered up the delights of thy race? Wouldst thou be wise? Mine is the wisdom of the countless ages. Kiss me, my mortal lover.’ And the Horror crawled near and nearer to him; it crept to his side, its breath breathed upon his cheek! With a sharp cry he fell to the earth insensible.”
According to Blavatsky, the “Dweller” is a known term in occultism. The term used by students for long ages past refers to certain maleficent astral Doubles of defunct persons. In this view, the Dweller is the shell of the previous incarnation of a materialistic person discarded by the Higher Ego. Upon reincarnation, the Dweller is attracted to the soul again.
In The Secret Doctrine it is explained that the Dweller occurs in such cases where the higher is separated from the lower. This happens after death when our base kamic desires and passions survive the absence of the soul’s assent to the afterlife. The Dweller becomes drawn to the reincarnating Ego to whom it previously belonged. It fastens on to the kama of the new personality becoming the new life’s Dweller on the Threshold and giving more power to the kamic element.
The good news is that the solution from this haunting dweller is in virtue. This is touched upon later in the book Zanoni. Zanoni, an adept, speaks to Glyndon, the recent initiate:
“But answer me this: when, seeking to adhere to some calm resolve of virtue, the Phantom hath stalked suddenly to thy side; when its voice hath whispered thee despair; when its ghastly eyes would scare thee back to those scenes of earthly craft or riotous excitement from which, as it leaves thee to worse foes to the soul, its presence is ever absent, – hast thou never bravely resisted the specter and thine own horror; hast thou never said, ‘Come what may, to Virtue I will cling.’”
Kurt Leland, a well-known author about his adventures having out of body experiences in books such as Otherwhere and The Unanswered Question, said this:
“The Dweller on the Threshold was a term coined by the early nineteenth century novelist Sir Edward Bulker-Lytton in Zanoni: A Rosicrucian Tale. It was subsequently taken up to explain the fearsome and nightmarish beings sometimes encountered by neophytes on the astral plane, functioning as a bouncer of sorts to scare away those who weren’t ready to explore and master the astral plane. Usually, this lack of readiness was the result of their ignorance of the conditions that prevail on the astral plane, often combined with unexpressed emotion and unfulfilled desire stored in their astral body and likely to make their experience of the astral plane unpleasant, even hellish.”
Many consider the term “guardian of the threshold” to be another name for “the dweller.” Harriette Augusta and Frank Homer Curtiss, who were Christian Theosophists in 1908 Philadelphia called The Order of The Christian Mystics, offer an alternate way of looking at it. In the following piece they state that the Guardian is at our defense while the Dweller is the phantom that haunts us, and they are separate entities:
“We are both the Dweller and the Guardian of our own creation. It is called ‘The Dweller on the Threshold’ because when one is determined to live a spiritual life this Dweller stands at the threshold to be redeemed before the Neophyte can go on.”
At the time of laying aside your physical body there is always a great deal of evil that has not been spiritualized, and this remains upon the karmic plane until the Ego who gave it birth grows strong enough to conquer it once and for all. It attaches itself to the Ego at each new incarnation and becomes the tempter of the personality; a personal devil to a certain extent but only because it is something that you yourself have created which is seeking expression through you. It is a personal devil; but better yet, it’s your personal adversary. Before final liberation, this monster must be consciously met and conquered, the evil that is in it must be redeemed and spiritualized by seeing in oneself the faults that live in this Dweller and overcoming them one by one.
Very often just before taking an advanced step upward and inward, or passing an inner initiation, this Dweller becomes visible to the disciple. It is very dreadful because, being created by yourself, there is an inner conviction that you, like Frankenstein, are looking into the face of a monster of your own creation and you will be appalled at the sight of your own handiwork.
It is only the brave and the steadfast who can look into the face and defy this Dweller in full consciousness of their true power to conquer and redeem it. Until it is redeemed, it is ever with you whether seen or unseen. The Dweller is an even greater threat when not seen so, it is a good thing for the disciple to see it, for then your courage is stimulated to conquer it. Do not be discouraged; for not only have you a ‘Dweller of the Threshold’, but you also have a ‘Guardian of the Threshold.’ This is built up or created by you out of all your aspirations and struggles to overcome.
Every time you turn your thoughts toward spiritual things you strengthen this Guardian and withdraw life from the Dweller. This is why it fights against your spiritual growth; it is fighting for its life. Every fault faced and overcome adds strength to your Guardian and weakens the Dweller.
The theme that rings true is that we are judged by our acts. One might say that the most important lesson to be learned from the book Zanoni and the story of the Dweller on the Threshold is to do good deeds, and to do them abundantly.
H. P. Blavatsky on the Dweller on the Threshold
“Truly ‘The Dwellers of the Threshold’ are within!”H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings
H. P. Blavatsky on the Dweller on the Threshold, Volume 12 of The Collected Writings
“The future of the Lower Manas (Lower Mind) is more terrible, and still more terrible to humanity than to the now animal man. It sometimes happens after the separation the exhausted Soul, now become supremely animal, fades out in Kama-Loka (Desire Realm), as do all other animal souls. But seeing that the more material the human mind, the longer it lasts, in that intermediate stage, it frequently happens that after the actual life of the soulless man is ended, he is again and again reincarnated into new personalities, each one more abject than the other. The impulse of animal life is too strong; it cannot wear itself out in one or two lives only. In rare cases, however, something far more dreadful may happen.
When the lower Manas is doomed to exhaust itself by starvation; when there is no longer hope that even a remnant of a lower light will, owing to favorable conditions – say, even a short period of spiritual aspiration and repentance – attract back to itself its Parent Ego, then Karma leads the Higher Ego back to new incarnations. In this case the Kama-Manasic spook may become that which we call in Occultism the “Dweller on the Threshold.” This “Dweller” is not like that which is described so graphically in Zanoni, but an actual fact in nature and not a fiction in romance, however beautiful the latter may be. Bulwer must have got the idea from some Eastern Initiate.
Our “Dweller”, led by affinity and attraction, forces itself into the astral current, and through the Auric Envelope of the new tabernacle inhabited by the Parent Ego, and declares war to the lower light which has replaced it. This, of course, can only happen in the case of moral weakness of the personality so obsessed. No one strong in his virtue, and righteous in his walk of life, can risk or dread any such thing; but only those depraved in heart. Robert Louis Stevenson had a glimpse of true vision indeed when the wrote his Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. His story is a true allegory. Every Chela (disciple) would recognize in it a substratum of truth, and in Mr. Hyde a “Dweller”, an obsessor of the personality, the tabernacle of the “Parent Spirit.”
According to H. P. Blavatsky’s view, “Dweller” is a known term in occultism whereas the term“Dwellers on the Threshold” is a term invented by Bulwer Lytton in Zanoni; but in Occultism the word “Dweller” is an occult term used by students for long ages past, and refers to certain maleficent astral doubles of defunct persons.
Further explanation can be found in what was published as the third volume of The Secret Doctrine: “The ‘Dweller on the Threshold’ is found in two cases: (a) In the case of the separation of the Triangle from the Quaternary; (b) When Kamic desires and passions are so intense that the Kama Rupa persists in Kama Loka beyond the Devachanic period of the Ego, and thus survives the reincarnation of the Devachanic Entity (e.g., when reincarnation occurs within two hundred or three hundred years). The “Dweller” being drawn by affinity towards the Reincarnating Ego to whom it had belonged, and being unable to reach it, fastens on the Kama of the new personality, and becomes the Dweller on the Threshold, strengthening the Kamic element and thus lending it a dangerous potency. Some become mad from this cause.
Dweller on the Threshold, Van Morrison
I’m a dweller on the threshold
And I’m waiting at the door
And I’m standing in the darkness
I don’t want to wait no more
I have seen without perceiving
I have been another man
Let me pierce the realm of glamour
So I know just what I am
Feel the angel of the present
In the mighty crystal fire
Lift me up, consume my darkness
Let me travel even higher
I’m a dweller on the threshold
As I cross the burning ground
Let me go down to the water
Watch the great illusion drown
I’m gonna turn and face the music
The music of the spheres
Lift me up, consume my darkness
When the midnight disappears
I will walk out of the darkness
And I’ll walk into the light
And I’ll sing the song of ages
And the dawn will end the night