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Holy Guardian Angels, Demons and Dwellers on the Threshold

IF YOU have read anything on occultism you might find yourself facing terms such as Holy Guardian Angel and sometimes, more rarely, Guardian Demon and the Dweller on the Threshold. These terms have been confused over the years so will try and explain them. In a system of 16th century magic called Abramelin the first part of the work was to get in touch with your Holy Guardian Angel and it was through it that you learnt the names of Angels and Demons that controlled the universe using magic squares. Protestant commentat ors on the system did not really know what the Holy Guardian Angel was, and some of them, such as Alistair Crowley, who had a psychological bent, thought it was the same as your Higher Self.

However in the pre-reformation Church it was believed that when a human was born they were overshadowed by an Angel and a Demon. It is the role of both to oversee their work in each life and to act as a messenger between heaven and earth. The Angel is a protector and a guide, the Demon is the force that works against the Divine forces to keep the human from returning to God.
Of the two the Demon was the weakest, yet you would know it not by the havoc it creates. Left to its own devices, the Demon will shut the ears of the soul to the guidance of the Angel and encourage the soul to carry on with its mundane life and give no thought to God. Yet if the Guardian Angel was evoked, the balance between Angel and Demon is restored. As the Priests say on the occasion of your baptism. Anger not your Guardian Angel, for it is that which will lead you to the understanding of the True Christ. The idea of a Guardian Angel or Demon has fallen from fashion although they sometimes appear in Disney cartoons as warring forces of a person’s conscious. The Guardian Angel certainly is not your Higher Self.
The term Dweller on the Threshold comes from a Victorian book called Zanoni which was written by an occultist called Lord Bulwer-Lytton. It appears to be a demonic force which appears if someone begins the path of magic before they are ready. It is supposed to scare the willies off them until they decide to stick to a normal life. It is a guardian which stood between the mysteries and the mundane world to prevent those who should not be walking in the immeasurable regions from going there.
Over the years it has come to mean something else depending on which path of magic you use. Alice Bailey in her Esoteric Astrology claimed that it was the sum total of all instincts, and wrong thinking which has built over countless lifetimes. Other occultists describe it as your shadow which must be overcome before you can carry on your esoteric work.
But one thing I have noticed is that while a few people claim they have encountered the Dweller on the Threshold they are the sorts of people who see the world divided into humans and lizard people. They are often the times who say they braved a conversation with the feared dweller and in the same breath tell you that Elvis Presley was a grand adept of their magical order.
If a Dweller on the Threshold existed the way that Bulwer-Lytton described, none of these vegetables would ever get their hands on an esoteric book, let alone find a magical group, or do any exercises. But that does not mean that it does not exist. Like a lot of things in occultism, Bulwer Lytton was not being literal.
It is not, as some commentators have tried to say a magician’s Lower Self, although there are some similarities and it uses the same tools. It is that force which keeps people from succeeding in the Magical Path. It leads them on a merry dance through different groups, it might even give them magical experiences, but Real Magic is something that they never really experience. Unconsciously they make all the choices that prevent them being Real Magicians. Tragically this does not stop such types being experts on magic or even ruling their own esoteric groups or orders. A teacher might have all the students in the world who pay a fortune to attend his lectures, but be no closer to the goal of being a real magician. They are stopped by the Dweller on the Threshold and do not know how to pass. It is not the sum total of their animal instincts, but that which protects magic from being misused.
Butler-Lytton says something very odd about the Dweller. After saying that it is the ugliest thing that anyone has ever seen, and yet it says that it contains the wisdom of “countless ages”. In otherwords the path of being a real magician is not all sweetness, light and crystal dolphins. When you step into the Immeasurable Region real magic is protected by your own fears, your own lack of self-belief. Your own fear turns you back and turns you into a pretend magician.
In one magical order called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a candidate who is blindfolded meets an officer who represents this Dweller on the Threshold. This officer threatens the candidate with a sword and blocks the path until the candidate can tell him his name. The candidate is prompted to say “Darkness is thy name, thou Great one of the Path of shades.” The officer replies: “Fear is failure, so be thou without fear. For he who trembles at the Flame and the Flood and at the Shadows of the Air,hath no part in God.
In the path of becoming a real magician you have to face your fears and this process is what is known as the Dweller on the Threshold. But it is more than this overcoming lower self fears. Real magic is protected by the collective fears of humanity. Its biggest fear is “what if magic were true”. What if an individual really could change the universe. In this path it is a fear that we all face and all come up with our own answers. When we face it, it is our first real teacher. In most cases it means we will leave the path completely back to the safety of our books.
Reblogged from 2009

6 thoughts on “Holy Guardian Angels, Demons and Dwellers on the Threshold

  1. ” and some of them, such as Alistair Crowley, who had a psychological bent, thought it was the same as your Higher Self. ” – and even he, near the end of his life changed his stance on this by then saying that the HG Angel and Higher Self S were not the same at all (see “Magick Without Tears”, written in his 70s)
    And just to add, his view on the Dweller on the Threshold was interesting too in that, for him, this was Choronzon, the personification of dispersion and confusion who lived, not at the beginning of the general Mysteries but at the beginning of the much greater Mysteries of the Supernals – the threshold being the Abyss.

  2. Aleister (not ‘Alistair’) Crowley never said the HGA was “The Higher Self,” a term he eschewed thoroughly. And he absolutely, definitely never implied in any place that Choronzon was the Dweller on the Threshold. The Dweller is, in most contexts, the Shadow aspect of the HGA, which is encountered specifically in the approach to Tiphereth. It is, in general, the summation of the experience of Nun, Ayin and Samekh as it’s encountered before the LVX has broken through the psyche’s entrenched defences.
    Choronzon is (to offer a quick if incomplete definition) the sum of all the egoic tendencies that arise repeatedly as the ego-structure dissolves in the crossing of the Abyss, a much more dire and advanced process than attaining intimate union with the Divine/HGA in Tiphereth.
    Please try checking sources before you post!

    1. Crowleys definition of HGA and the Higher Self changed over his life. He started out equating the two. in “Liber Samekh” for example:
      “the Angel is in truth the Logos or articulate expression of the whole Being of the Adept, so that as he increases in the perfect understanding of His name, he approaches the solution of the ultimate problem, Who he himself truly is… The Angel is the spiritual Sun of the Soul of the Adept… The Angel [is] the True Self of his subconscious self, the hidden Life of his physical life.”
      This fits nicely to the “psychological “definition, but does not fit the fact that Crowley (and the golden dawn) said that knowledge and conversation of the Angel was a Malkuth experience… something which fitted better with the traditional HGA of the Christian Church. Later he realised that the HGA was much lower in the pecking order.
      I agree with you about Choronzon – he was much more of a secret name for the devil even for Crowley. The fact that you have to face this experience to Cross the Abyss makes a great deal of sense, and explains why he can be found in the sub-lunar ayres between the earth and the moon. Chorozon is more of a shadow of Adam Kadmon than the shadow of an individual magician which is what the Dweller really is.

    2. Nick,
      Yes, Crowley says various different things in different places. Sometimes it was because his own understanding had shifted, but more often (in Magick Without Tears, for example, which Soror SD quotes above), it was because of the level of understanding of the audience he was addressing. And he also intended a very specific usage in phrasing such as “spiritual Sun of the Soul of the Adept.” However, for the Ordo A.A., he never deviated from the notion that the Knowledge and Conversation occurs in Tiphereth, not Malkuth. It might be Malkuth that is most affected (I’d argue for Yesod, but that’s not the key point here), but the encounter is the hallmark of the Adept who has opened to the world of Briah and Briatic consciousness in Tiphereth.
      I have never read anything by Crowley where he indicated he thought the HGA “was much lower in the pecking order,” or anything similar. The ultimate aim is to reach past all separative experience and to achieve full realisation/identification/fusion with the HGA, which has its roots in the Yechidah, but is as you quote: “the Logos or articulate expression of the whole Being of the Adept…” In various writings he equated the Logos with Chokmah, so he is also pointing out how the essential life-force of the practitioner, which he equated with the idea of the True Will (i.e., the individual life-dharma). “Confining” the HGA to one sephirah kinda misses the point. Though I appreciate that different schools have different teachings on this topic. I’m simply trying to point out here that Crowley’s standpoint on the HGA wasn’t necessarily that of the Golden Dawn community, or of some independent magicians.
      His best exposition of all this is in his commentaries to Liber LXV which are, so far as I can see, only available online mixed up with some of less quality by Marcelo Motta (http://www.castletower.org/065comm.html). But if you’re into this, persistent study shows it to be a quite astonishing exegesis of a deep mystical attainment, of a type rare in the West since the heyday of medieval or Counter-Reformation spiritual texts such as The Cloud of Unknowing, The Interior Castle or the Dark Night of the Soul.

  3. Correction to my chopped syntax above. Meant to write:
    “..In various writings he equated the Logos with Chokmah, so he is also pointing out how the essential life-force of the practitioner, which he equated with the idea of the True Will (i.e., the individual life-dharma) is central to the experience of the HGA, but without being the defining feature.”
    Thanks,
    EM

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