James LeFevour – USA
One of the stages most often paid attention to on the spiritual path is the dark night of the soul. This is partly because we go through this stage cyclically, again and again, until we finally do it for the last time. The Dweller on the Threshold, though less talked about and equally as harrowing, 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."
As one can see, it seems that Edward Bulwer-Lytton seemed to be an initiate of sorts. He himself denied any affiliation though many attest he was a Rosicrucian.
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 spectre and thine own horror; hast thou never said, ‘Come what may, to Virtue I will cling?’”
“Alas!” answered Glyndon, “only of late have I dared to do so.”
“And thou hast felt then that the Phantom grew more dim and its power more faint?”
“It is true.”
“Rejoice, then!—thou hast overcome the true terror and mystery of the ordeal. Resolve is the first success. Rejoice, for the exorcism is sure! Thou art not of those who, denying a life to come, are the victims of the Inexorable Horror.
In this section from Zanoni, Glyndon is learning the purpose of the dweller - to compel us to good works and altruistic action. Glyndon is a good example for the audience to bear witness to, for he is a typical man who has his virtues but does not want to give up his drinking or revelry.
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."
In Leland's writings he draws comparisons between the ideal of purity and flexibility of consciousness. The same exercises lead to the gradual development of both to the degree that they might get confused with each other. Flexibility of consciousness is more the quality that is eminently desirable and what can push the practitioner past one's glass ceiling. This is in contradiction to simply harboring purity of thought, feeling, and action.
Many consider the term "guardian of the threshhold" 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 the old garment (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 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 have created which is seeking expression through you. It is a personal "devil;" but better yet, it's your personal adversary, just as the Higher Self may be said to be a personal God.
Before final liberation, this monster must be consciously met and conquered, the evil that is entitized 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 redeemed it is ever with you, 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 an arrow to the quiver of your Guardian.
The warrior is your higher principles together with the sum total of your aspirations which fights for you. Recognize that the inner evil is but transitory; that it lives only until you arise in your might, accept it as your own and determine to redeem and transmute the foul dross into pure gold. Remember, nothing is to be killed, "Thou shalt not kill" means more than the surface interpretation generally given to it; for within every evil thing, there is the germ of goodness. Find then that germ and water it with love and patience until it grows and transforms the darkness into light."
It is a comfort to know that we have our positivity is noted by the universe as well as our negativity. 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 moral of the Dweller on the Threshold is to do good deeds, and to do them without measure.