The Dweller on the Threshold

[Reprinted from THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, July 1965.]

What is this mysterious Dweller about whom many student-aspirants desire to know, half in fear of the terrible battle that has to ensue before he is conquered?

As usual, Mr. Judge, while describing this entity, relieves our fears because he shows us how it is formed and what it is. When we understand this we can shake off our fear. Naturally this knowledge is a growing knowledge, but that which makes it grow is our continued attempt to be one with our spiritual nature. Until we know enough about that spiritual nature, which is our real self, this thing that is known as the Dweller, an invisible thing of terror, is like what the "devil" is to a child—an unknown horror. It is lack of knowledge that evokes the deepest fear, and therefore the idea of the devil is more fearful to the child than the sight of the father with a cane, for the child knows the result of the beating; it is tangible, a thing of experience, and a thing that will pass, whereas fear of the devil never passes.

Let us therefore find out what the Dweller is, what gives it its form, and where it dwells, so that we may shed our fear.

In Vernal Blooms, page 189, Mr. Judge tells us that the Dweller

is the combined evil influence that is the result of the wicked thougts and acts of the age in which anyone may live....It is specialized for each student and given its form by the tendencies and natural physical and psychical combinations that belong to his family and nation.

Here we have two aspects, one a natural one by which we cannot avoid being affected, namely, the total of evil thoughts of the age we are in, and for us today this age is Kali Yuga, the Dark Age. The second aspect is that the Dweller takes that form for each of us which is akin to the tendencies of the family or nation to which we belong.

We are further told that the Dweller "is not the product of the brain, but is an influence found in a plane that is extraneous to the student." This plane is one "in which his success or failure will be due to his own purity."

We are also told when this Dweller begins to be a power in our lives.

When the student has at last gotten hold of a real aspiration and some glimmer of the blazing goal of truth, where Masters stand, and has also aroused the determination to know and to be, the whole bent of his nature, day and night, is to reach out beyond the limitations that hitherto had fettered his soul. No sooner does he begin thus to step a little forward, than he reaches the zone just beyond mere bodily and mental sensations.

Can we say that the student is now approaching the plane of the real Ego, and his aspirations are leading him across the Antaskaranic bridge to that other shore where personal Kamic traits and tendencies cannot live? This is brought out in The Pilgrim's Progress, and also in Light on the Path where we are told that the eyes "must be incapable of tears," the ear "must have lost its sensitiveness," and "the voice...must have lost the power to wound"; that is, all personal ideas must have been conquered before we can pass to the other shore. In other words, only purity in all the senses of the word will enable us to reach that shore. This is because the Will, which alone will see us through, cannot be used if clogged with desires or feelings, for it has to unite with that Will of Nature which is ever on the side of Universality and Compassion Absolute. All the desires, wrong feelings, etc., which we have not already overcome will accumulate at the threshold of our goal. That is, before we can pass to Liberation or Renunciation, or to the fulfilment of our task on earth, we must "clear up" our relationship with it and destroy any evil residue of our doings, any unpurged aspect of our character. Even the sense of personality must go, for we have to unite with the Universal.

This stage is not reached suddenly. Each step along the Path involves a struggle, for each initiation into further knowledge and power is possible only by the destruction of that which stands in its way. The fight, therefore, has to be encountered at different stages on the Path.

The importance of this subject for us lies in the fact that we are now forming our individual Dweller. At first, our selfish, personal and unkind actions, feelings and thoughts do not seem to produce any effect on us. We generate thoughts, feelings or actions and then forget them. But we are taught that they are not wiped out when forgotten by us, and that they remain in that invisible astral sphere of life which surrounds us and which is like a photographic plate, coalescing with other thoughts, feelings and acts of a similar character. Thus in time is built up a form linked to us magnetically which will take the shape of our particular antipathies. It may not at first reveal itself as a shape, but may assail the aspirant by infusing in him a sense of horror, a feeling of fear and impotence, and only later take definite shape; but in whatever manner it impresses itself, the point for us to remember is that it is but the reflection of our own feelings, thoughts and actions, ensouled by life appropriate to its form. As we created it, we can destroy it. We must destroy it. For if we do not do so, it will destroy us. No one can help us at the last stage or even in the earlier stages. The Masters have said that they can only stand by and watch, for if They helped in its destruction then it would not be the fighter who had won, and the battle would have to be fought again. It is a contest of wills, in which Faith and Confidence come to our defence. It is a fight between one set of thoughts and aspirations against another—the one constructive and the other destructive. Once destroyed, it can never come to life again—unless we fall back from the very threshold of Divinity, and have to start the journey to perfection all over again.

In any fight weapons are necessary, and it is necessary for us to learn what these weapons are and how to use them. We begin to make and use them right where we are, here and now, just as we are forming the Dweller here and now. Every duty left undone, every lapse of will, every moment of sloth, every feeling of fear, all go to form this Dweller. Every time we foster good aspirations, every time the will overcomes sloth, every time we, with faith, destroy fear, we are building the weapons which are eternal, and we are strengthening and sharpening them to make them of real use in the final battle.

Our Dweller, our skandhas of evil, are drawn to us every time we incarnate on earth, and all life is a battle against these. Fortunately we bring back also part of our Ego or Soul and have its assistance in fighting this battle. The higher aspect of our being does not function in us fully as yet, but we are linked to it by what is known to us as conscience. Every time we listen to our conscience, or call on it, we are using one of our weapons for the fight; but how often we ignore its message!

We can today look at our character and perhaps find in it a tendency to think uncharitable thoughts. We know this is not good, but we also know how terribly hard the fight will be before we can overcome this tendency. We know also how hard we have to fight to stick to our aspirations, or even to our resolutions, and not let them fade away through lack of will power. We know, too, how often we revert to the old grooves of our personal life even if we have, for a few years perhaps, sensed the exhilaration which results from helpfulness to humanity and the service of Those who work for it. Or we may begin to feel ourselves so important that we are full of criticism of others. (Criticism of others as persons is different from criticism of their hurtful and undesirable actions. Only by analysing actions can we learn discrimination.) If we criticize others we have no time to look at our own weaknesses, and the result is that we begin to live under the delusion that we know all, and that others are all wrong! Thus we build the most harmful of all Dwellers, for this perverted sense of "I" is the hardest to overcome at the final battle.

Another practical idea to dwell upon is that if we find out what our own individual fear is we can destroy this handicap before it assumes too great proportions. Also, if we want to know our own character we must begin to watch the reactions caused by it on others. We must watch for the occasions when, in however small a degree, we let sloth overcome will. More important still, we must find out what desires predominate in us, for desires, more than any other thing, destroy the mental or spiritual will. Though the final battle looms very far ahead for all of us, the little battles of today give us that strength which will bring victory at the end. Let us beware especially of adding to the strength of the Dweller.

Light on the Path tells us that we are aided by the "warrior" within. We should not forget that if there is in us the "Man of Sin," there is also in us the "Man of Virtue," consisting of those powers which have already been developed in us through contless lives of effort. We must learn that there is that in us which uses those weapons, and "he is incapable of defeat." He is our guide for life and lives, and gives us confidence in spirit, in the evolving Gods that we are, in what is Right. We are given a further hint as to what makes such confidence grow. It is pain—pain that is a concomitant of a life of struggle. Through the Gates of Gold also tells us of pain. All growth is through pain. If we listen to the message of pain we shall know the truth of Light on the Path and, "cool and awakened," shall use the hearing we have "acquired by pain and by the destruction of pain." Max Plowman, the English writer, in his Bridge into the Future, a collection of his letters to his friends, tell us that what he believes in is "to assimilate the whole of the suffering and then to know the spirit's triumph over it." That confidence we have to build up ourselves. It is the "spirit's triumph," not that of the personal ego who is different in every incarnation with his different desires and wishes. Our personality has indeed fettered the Soul. If we start breaking those fetters today, we gain the strength to fight the Dweller, and though that final battle may seem too far off for us to be concerned about it now, we can be confident of final victory by the smaller victories we gain today.

With regard to our responsibility for the national or racial traits and tendencies that give form to our own particular Dweller, we can watch for the traces of these tendencies in us, and by purifying them within our own character, lessen their cumulative strength. We helped to make those bad traits; we helped to make the good traits; therefore we cannot escape the bad and the good effects of both.

There is one other aspect of this question which, again, is not so vital to us today, but which is very vital at the end. We all know that there are two powers in the Universe: the one working towards the goal of evolution and harmony; the other, towards destruction and disharmony—the white and the black as they are called. When we are nearing the end of our journey we receive greater and greater opposition from the destructive side, and therefore our particular Dweller is strengthened by these dark forces. But we can sense by analogy that if we draw the attention of the black forces, we also draw the attention of the white and can derive strength and help from the latter, not so much as individuals, but as workers for and with the constructive powers of spirit. But it is we who put obstructions in the way of such help coming to us.

Hence we find that even in the Theosophical Movement of our age so many failed to withstand the dark side through personal pride, lack of discrimination, hatred, disloyalty, ambition and the wish to lead. If we train ourselves to see how we are building our own Dweller by our character, and use all difficulties in the line of our responsibility to the Movement as things to be overcome for the sake of the Movement, we shall again have courage and confidence to fight for that which is true.

Each of us has a responsibility for all humankind. It is time for us to think of other people as true brothers and sisters and to be concerned with their welfare, with lessening their suffering. Even if you cannot sacrifice your own benefit entirely, you should not forget the concerns of others. We should think more about the future benefit of all humanity....

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own mind, our own heart, is our temple, the philosophy is kindness.

—H. H. The Dalai Lama

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