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The Dweller on the Threshold

By:Andrew Hain
Date: Fri,31 Mar 2023
Submitter:Andrew Hain

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The Dweller on the Threshold
The term ‘Dweller on the Threshold’ was first coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his novel ‘Zanoni’ in 1842. In the book the Dweller is described as a cruel entity that embodies the sum total of all the ill will and selfish acts a person has performed throughout the incarnations he or she has lived.

There are implications of unremitted karma in the description, so where does the Dweller fit in Theosophical thinking and Eastern religion?

A general view, expressed on the website, is that the Dweller on the Threshold “arrays himself in everything that arouses in us not only anxiety and distress but also disgust and loathing, who clothes himself in our weaknesses. 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 Dweller has wrapped himself in. While indeed this is a meeting with oneself, it is more truly the meeting with another entity. It is something that the spiritual pilgrim must overcome on the journey to enlightenment.”

T. Subba Row, an early theosophist, 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.”

Franz Hartmann, (1838-1912), a prolific writer on theosophical and allied subjects, had this to say: “The Dweller of the Threshold guards the door to the Temple of Truth?and must be conquered before we can enter”

James LeFevour, writing in?Theosophy, March 14,? 2021, tells us that “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.”

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, in a group called The Order of The Christian Mystics, offer an alternate way of looking at it.

“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.

As we attempt to walk the Spiritual pathway, there is always a great deal of negativity 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. Even after death this negativity remains on the karmic (buddhic) plane – it has to be neutralised at some point.

So, at each new incarnation, it attaches itself to the Ego and becomes the tempter of the personality. To a certain extent it is a personal devil, but only because it is something that you have created, and which is seeking expression through you.
The Dweller must be consciously met and conquered, the negativity that it encompasses must be redeemed and spiritualized by seeing in oneself the faults that live in this Dweller and overcoming them one by one.

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. Thus, every time you turn your thoughts toward spiritual things you strengthen this Guardian and withdraw life from the Dweller. This is why the Dweller fights against your spiritual growth, for it is fighting for its existence. Every fault faced and overcome will help you to overcome further negativity, because you are strengthening your Guardian.”

Eastern religions have their version of the Dweller. Ahriman is the evil spirit in Early Iranian Religion, Zoroastrianism, and Zorvanism, and is portrayed as the Lord of Darkness and Chaos, the source of human confusion, disappointment, and strife.

In Manichaeism, Ahriman “is a conscious entity, not simply a concept…a sentient and malevolent force opposed to the will of?God. Another name or term that Manichaeans often use to reference the evil one is the King of Darkness.”

Maya is a Buddhist term translated as "pretence" or "deceit" that is identified as one of the unwholesome mental factors within the Mahayana Abhidharma (ancient Buddhist texts) teachings. In this context, it is defined as pretending to exhibit or claiming to have a good quality that one lacks.

Maya also connotes that which "is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal" (in opposition to an unchanging Absolute, or Brahman), and therefore "conceals the true character of spiritual reality".

The Hindu concept of ‘maya’ ?means 'illusion' and refers to the ways in which a person's existence and self-centredness stop them from seeing the truth. Hindus believe that maya can exert a powerful influence on people.

‘Maya’ refers to the illusions that distract Hindus from seeing the spiritual truth of the cycle of life and the possibility of moving closer to moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth) in their next reincarnation.

Learning to control, or face, the Dweller, gives us strength to face the dark forces. If we enter the arena without this strength, as some do, it may lead to great confusion of mind and personal unbalance. We must all face who and what we are. We must wrestle with ourselves until we are changed, and the Dark Dweller becomes a Being of Light. Then we have free access to the Halls of Light also.

Frankenstein’s monster was a composite made up of many dead bodies. So, therefore, he becomes a model analogy for the Dweller of the Threshold, the karma from past lives, the bits that need to be faced, healed, or dealt with and integrated, being the parts of dead bodies.

How much Karma we have worked off in our past incarnations we can only tell from the response we receive from the efforts we give to our studies and spiritual exercises. If the response is a very rapid unfolding of understanding and ability, then the spiritual picture is certainly a bright one if we persevere with our efforts. The student who finds the way slower and harder, need not despair, for each step on the Path that is carved out is theirs forever unless they choose to retrace their steps.

These steps that we carve on our Spiritual Journey are changes in ourselves, for the ‘Way’ is within us. Each step takes us nearer the goal of Cosmic Consciousness and Mastership. This, then, is the Heaven the New Testament tells us lies within, and from here the Inner Light shines in the darkness, and “the darkness comprehends it not.”

Everyone is seeking this Light and the happiness it brings, but few realise where or how to find it. Some seek it in sensual pleasures, but find it absent. Others seek it in worldly power, but only discover the perpetual turmoil of aggression and competitiveness, and still others get trapped in the allure of materialism without finding what they are really seeking.

Meanwhile, let us remember that we have been sent into the darkness to learn its lessons. Let us study it, and face it, for it is one with the Dweller. When we understand it, and overcome it, then will its darkness become Light, and we will be home.
As Alice Bailey writes, “the Dweller on the Threshold is illusion-glamour-maya, as realized by the physical brain and recognized as that which must be overcome. It is the bewildering thoughtform with which the disciple is confronted, when he seeks to pierce through the accumulated glamours of the ages and find his true home in the place of light." (Glamour: A World Problem.)

Thus, the greatest Dweller we have is doubt, suspicion, fear, lack of faith. These are outward exhibitions of the Dweller, and the first influences which we feel. These dwellers have to be conquered. How do we overcome them?

According to Robert Crosbie, the founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists, the “Dweller on the Threshold” is a very real thing, and something which we all must meet, whether we begin now or wait for a thousand incarnations. We cannot do other than pass that way – over the threshold of the accumulated evil of the past. For it is absolutely impossible for any man to escape his Karma.

According to Hindu values we can reduce the impact of the Dweller by
1. Following a spiritual path
2. Being part of group activities such as meditations and healings
3. Motivating people to get into higher consciousness by practising meditation and healing techniques
4. Healing yourself and people around you

Manly P Hall advises that the Dweller is defeated through right thought, right action, and right attitude, which sounds very much like a summary of the Buddhist Eightfold Path.

To sum up, it takes great courage and determination to come out and accept the light, thus eliminating the darkness inside you. To face it squarely and overcome it is a tough path to travel, but it’s the most rewarding and fruitful path towards higher inner growth and elevation from your current state of consciousness.

However, remember that every action has a reaction, every cause has an effect, so it’s up to us whether we want to take a path of positive outcome or be stuck in our negative lower emotions. It’s up to us which direction we wish to act and work towards.

Remember, too, that temptation to revert to previous habits, thoughts and actions is never far away. The Dweller is always watching, looking for signs of weakness, and will pounce should any be detected.

It may be a comfort to know that our positivity is also noted by the universe, but 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.

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