Your Guardians of the Threshold

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What major resistances show up in your life that seem to always obscure or obtrude your progress? You would like to go back to college, but no, there are so many reasons that pop up to say you can’t. (What is it you really wish to study or to learn and how else might you go about that?) Or you want to try a new diet and start exercising regularly, but where is the time? The money? If you could form a mental image of the naysayers within your own “conscience”, what would they look like to you? I call them Gremlins and will tell you why in a bit. These are your Threshold guardians!

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Joseph Campbell talked about Dragons and about Threshold Guardians separately because the way these archetypal mythological figures show up in your consciousness, dreams, or fixed attitudes varies, but they are related notions.  According to Campbell your inner Dragons are those internal voices that “hem you in;” they appear in your consciousness as self-limiting constructs that aim to hold you back from achieving your “Bliss” or your highest potentials. In a way, these sorts of internal Dragons are protecting you from failure; if you never strive to achieve your dreams, then you can avoid the feelings of failure that could occur if you fall short of fulfilling your desires. So the Dragon protects a part of you from venturing forth into the “big bad world” of external hardships and challenge. But of course, those challenges are what we are here to engage, from another point of view!

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Guardians of the Threshold pop up in your consciousness—perhaps in nightly dreams, waking dreams, or “road blocks” generally—when you are getting closer to attaining the fulfillment of a worthy Quest.  These Guardians guard the passageway that would allow you to finally “cross the threshold” by overcoming the final obstacles between you and your ultimate Goal/Bliss/Life Dream. In mythology and fiction, Guardians of the Threshold are those towering, often stone statues—usually paired as two Guardians facing each other—that wield powers that can destroy you if your heart is not pure when you attempt to step across into a field of “Higher Power” or higher Awareness and achievement. Often a set of Tests or Riddles are issued by the Guardians; only if you pass the tests can you survive in stepping forward. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for instance, while Indie’s father lies dying from a gunshot wound, Indie aims to cross a Void in order to find the chamber in which the Golden Chalice is protected by an ancient guardian and ancient magical forces.  He must answer three riddles and then he must step into the Void, demonstrating absolute Trust and purity of heart and mission. He takes the step, and a stone passage way opens beneath him. He confronts the knightly Guardian and wins the chance to choose the chalice, a final test of his wisdom and worthiness. As confirmation of his purity, Indie uses the water of immortality from the chalice to save his father’s life.

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I had a significant, archetypal dream (we can call it) about two years ago in which I found myself in a realm of higher energy; even the air was “rarified,” as in a high altitude region.  I saw horses there; not just any horses but what I awoke calling “Horses of Heaven”. Yes, these were winged Pegasus horses, huge, beautifully colored and magnificent Beings whom I knew instinctively served the missions of heavenly Masters or Saints, transporting them on their Missions throughout the Cosmos.  These Horses lived in this rarified zone when they were not in service on their missions. It was like there was a boundary line between where I was standing and this heightened realm where the Horses of Heaven abide.

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So, of course, I wanted to enter that beautiful realm of the Horses of Heaven.  I approached the boundary, when all of a sudden, Gremlins popped up all along the boundary! Literally gremlins, these fiendish appearing little fellows had broad ears and flat, rodent like faces. They were grinning, but I knew if I approached any further they would attack and I would be gremlin fodder! So, I paused and knelt, content not to approach any further but to remain in this place to be even this near to the realm of the Horses of Heaven.

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A beautiful, familiar seeming, White Pegasus appeared, returning along with one of her fellow Horses from a service they had performed.  As they approached to step across the boundary, the other (dapple colored) Horse went on across, but the White Horse knelt on one beautiful, graceful leg, inviting me silently to climb up onto her back. She rose with me gratefully astride her wide back as She stepped across into the heavenly realm. I awoke, humbled and grateful!

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My dream, which I have titled “The Horses of Heaven” and which I will ALWAYS remember, is an example of how Guardians of the Threshold might appear in a dream; the Gremlins protected that rarified Heaven from any impurity. I have felt ever since that dream that this was a blessing; a confirmation that I can proceed with my own Life Dreams. It has fueled my ambition ever since.

So, what are YOUR Guardians of the Threshold? What Threshold, first of all, would you approach in aiming to Cross a Threshold to achieve your Higher Purpose? And then what “pops up” to test your resolve or your purity of heart and Spirit if you would step forth to realize that Goal? Have you had any dreams of this nature? Perhaps recurring dreams from childhood or as an adult? Or do recurring situations tend to pop up every time you try to make a meaningful change of course for the sake of realizing your deeper purpose? What is your Quest? And of course, it may be that the life you are currently living is already fulfilling that Purpose; it does not have to be something more, but then you can better appreciate how you can serve and develop the deep potentials all around you, Here and Now!

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As a tool for understanding and contemplating your own Guardians of the Threshold, I invite you this week to represent them artistically via a poem or a picture or song lyrics, or to reflect and talk about them with loved ones, or to dialogue with them in an archetype dialogue through active imagination and journaling, such as I introduced last week. Get to know your Gremlins; they may never befriend you as that is not of their nature, but after all, they are of a positive force that allows you to refine your Purpose!

Guest Story: “The Professor,” by Joshua Bertetta

{I welcome a special treat to share with you today: a story from (professor) Joshua Bertetta. This story, inspired by our weekly topic of the Twelve Universal Archetypes–especially The Teacher– transports us to the depths of the unconscious. I like how the Teacher archetype here also reflects our topic of next week: Guardians of the Threshold. An interesting connection re. Teachers as Gatekeepers…! Thank you for your story, Joshua. – Linda}

Universal Archetypes—The Teacher

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“The Professor”

By Joshua Bertetta

 

“Is it true? That there was once a monster who guarded these hills?”

“Ha!” The ragged man bellowed, then leaned close to the boy and for whatever reason, began in a whisper. “Monsters, my young friend, lurk everywhere. And I mean more than just the si’lahs and the sa’alus and the abominations raging in the Fire. The Cedars of El-Banon grow in the cities too, but there the lurking monsters do not look like those in your dreams or in your fancies. Some are real, others, your own making. Have you ever heard about the ghuls who rise from the dead?”

“Ghuls that rise from the dead? I don’t think so.”

“I’ve been hearing a lot more about them lately. That is, did, before I left.”

“What do they do?”

“They eat human flesh.”

“Like the si’lahs?”

“Yes, but they’re dead.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I know. That’s what I think too. But what they say about them is what, I guess you could say, intrigues me the most. They say the only way to kill them is to destroy the brain. Piercing their heart won’t kill them, cutting off their head won’t kill them. And if they bite you, you’ll turn into one too.”

“Gross.”

“So what I’ve been thinking is that these ghuls are us.”

“Now that’s just crazy.”

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“Wait, wait. Hear me out. See, I would say I myself was a monster, maybe I still am. You see, mine is the type of mind that seeks answers through reason. But I forgot how to dream. Since I left, I began to dream again. For me, the academic life, a mind focused only on the reasonable, the rational, is nothing short of a nightmare. In more ways than one. On the one hand, many like myself will do anything for a name—oftentimes to the extent the name means more than the students, than the teaching. And what do we teach?” His hands matched the veracity with which he proceeded. “Nothing new. Sure, some say they are blazing a path unwalked, but really they are just wrapping old ideas in new parchment and calling the whole package new. So focused on ideas, and when one becomes so particularly focused on one idea and starts calling it the idea, telling everyone he has the right idea? They lose sight of the bigger picture. Those are the ones you really need to watch out for. But I digress…where was I?”

“Monsters, you yourself, a monster.”

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“Oh, yes, well…maybe I didn’t digress. Maybe I did. Anyway, what are monsters other than those who settle for contraction? People nestling themselves in their single idea and around their idea—an idea they tell everyone else they must believe or agree with—they build bigger and thicker walls. Harder crusts. Walls built around the nightmare of a single idea are made from the failure to live, to expand, the mortar that holds them together made from the failure to love. Life out here produces peace born in slow movement. You know the city—it’s too fast. We try our best just to keep up and it just whizzes on by. Out here, there is no contradiction…Well, that’s not exactly true—there is contradiction when I find myself in my old way of thinking. Paradoxes, things that just don’t make sense. Do you see?” He clapped his hand and looked overhead. “That’s when I understood! As much as I have tried to unravel contradiction, paradox, they just made a mockery of my mind until I realized its futility. So out here my mind no longer gets stuck—not as much as it used to—and in those moments I hear song.”

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Joshua Bertetta, an aspiring fantasy author, holds a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies with a degree emphasis in depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently on the adjunct faculty in Religious Studies at a private university in central Texas. He maintains a blog at jbertetta.wordpress.com which contains excerpts from his novel in addition to short stories and thought provoking essays focused on mythology, religion/spirituality, and culture.