Rudolf Steiner Archive

Calendar of the Soul

Northern Hemisphere
Week 42

In this the shrouding gloom of winter
The soul feels ardently impelled
To manifest its innate strength,
To guide itself to realms of darkness,
Anticipating thus
Through warmth of heart the sense-world's

Southern Hemisphere
Week 16

To bear in inward keeping spirit bounty
Is stern command of my prophetic feeling,
That ripened gifts divine
Maturing in the depths of soul
To selfhood bring their fruits.

—Translation by Ruth and Hans Pusch

See GA 40 for full calendar and German text.

Initiation and Its Results
GA 10

VI. The First Guardian of the Threshold

Among the important experiences that accompany an ascent into the higher worlds is that of “Meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold.” In reality there is not only one such Guardian, but two; one known as “the Lesser,” the other as “the Greater.” The student meets with the former when, in the manner described in the last chapter, he begins to loosen the connection between the volitions, the thoughts, and the feelings so far as they concern the etheric and astral bodies. The meeting with the Greater Guardian occurs when this loosening of the links further extends to the physical body (that is to say, the brain).

The Lesser Guardian of the Threshold is an independent being. It did not exist before the individual had arrived at this particular point in his evolution. It is the individual's creation. Only one of its essential functions can be here described,— indeed it were no easy matter to furnish a complete description.

First of all, let us present in narrative form the meeting of the occult student with the Guardian of the Threshold. Only by means of this meeting does the former become aware of the separation of the threads that connected his thoughts, his volitions, and his feelings.

A terrible spectral creature, in truth, is this that confronts the student. The latter needs all the presence of mind and all the faith in the security of his way to wisdom which he could acquire during his previous training.

The Guardian proclaims his significance in something like these words:—“Hitherto, powers which were invisible to you have watched over you. They worked so that in the course of your life your good deeds brought their reward, your evil actions their disastrous results. Through their influence your character formed itself out of your experiences and your thoughts. They were the instruments of your fate. It was they that ordered the measure of joy and pain which was meted out to you in any one of your incarnations, according to your conduct in earlier lives. They ruled you by the all-binding law of Karma. Now they shall free you from a part of their constraint, and a portion of that which they have accomplished for you must you now accomplish for yourself. In the past you have borne many hard blows from Fate. Did you not know wherefore? Each was the effect of a pernicious deed in a life gone by. You found joy and gladness, and you partook of them. They, too, were the fruits of earlier deeds. In your character you have many beautiful qualities, many ugly flaws ; and both of these you have woven for yourself out of your bygone experiences and thoughts. Till now you did not know of this; only the effects were revealed to you. But they, the Karmic Powers, beheld all the deeds of your former lives, all your obscure thoughts and feelings; and thus have they determined what you now are and the manner in which you now live.

“But the hour has come when all the good and the evil aspects of your bygone lives shall be laid open before you. Till now they were interwoven with your whole being; they were in you, and you could not see them, even as with physical eyes you cannot see your own physical brain. Now, however, they detach themselves from you; they emerge from your personality. They assume an independent form which you can observe, even as you observe the stones and flowers of the external world. And I — I am that very being which has found for itself a body wrought of your noble and your ignoble deeds. My spectral robe is woven according to the entries in your life's ledger. Hitherto you have borne me invisibly within yourself, yet it was well for you that this should be, for the wisdom of the destiny which was hidden even from yourself has therefore worked hitherto toward the extinguishing of the hideous stains that were upon my form. Now that I have emerged, that hidden wisdom also departs from you. It will henceforth trouble itself no more concerning you. It will now leave the work in your hands alone. It is for me to become a complete and splendid being, if I am not, indeed, to fall into decay. If this, the latter, should occur, then should I drag you also down into a dark and ruined world. If you would avoid this, then let your own wisdom become so great that it can take over to itself the task of that other wisdom which was hidden from you, and is now departed. When you have passed my threshold I shall never leave your side for a single moment. From henceforth, when you do or think anything that is evil, you will straightway discern your guilt as a hideous, demoniacal distortion of this that is my form. Only when you have made good all your bygone evil deeds and have so elevated yourself that further evil becomes a thing impossible to you,— only then will my being be transformed into glorious beauty. Then, too, shall I again unite myself with you in one being for the helping of your further activity.

“My threshold is constructed out of every feeling of fear to which you are still accessible, out of every shrinking from the power which will take over to itself the complete responsibility for all your deeds and thoughts. So long as you have still any fear of that self-government of your fate, all that belongs to this threshold has not yet been built into it; and so long as a single stone is there found missing, you must remain standing as one forbidden entrance, or else must you stumble. Seek not, then, to pass my threshold until you feel yourself liberated from all fear, ready for the highest responsibility.

“Hitherto I have only emerged from your personality when Death recalled you from an earthly life, but even then my form was veiled from you. Only the powers of destiny who watched over you could behold me, and they were able, in accordance with my appearance, to build in you, during the interval between death and a new birth, all that power and that capacity wherewith in a new terrestrial existence you could labor at the glorifying of my form for the assurance of your progress. It was an account of my imperfection, indeed, that the powers of destiny were driven again and again to lead you back into a new incarnation upon earth. If you died, I was yet there ; and according to me did the Lords of Karma fashion the manner of your re-birth.

“Only when through an endless procession of lives you have brought me to perfection shall you no longer descend among the powers of death, but, having united yourself absolutely with me, you shall pass over with me into immortality.

“Thus do I stand before you here to-day visible, as I have always stood invisible beside you in the hour of death. When you shall have passed my threshold you will enter those kingdoms which else would have opened to you only at physical death. You will enter them with full knowledge, and henceforth, when you wander outwardly visible upon the earth, you will also move through the kingdom of death, which is the kingdom of eternal life. I am indeed the angel of Death; yet at the same time I am the bringer of an imperishable higher life. Through me you will die while still living in your body, to be reborn into an immortal existence.

“The kingdom that you now enter will introduce you to beings of a superhuman kind, and in that kingdom happiness will be your lot. But the first acquaintance to be made in that world must be myself, I that am your own creation. Erstwhile I lived upon your life, but now through you I have grown to a separate existence and here stand before you as the visible gauge of your future deeds, perhaps, too, as your constant reproach. You were able to form me, but in so doing you have taken up the duty of transforming me.”

What has been here presented in a narrative form one must not imagine to be merely something allegorical, but realize that it is an experience of the student which is the highest degree actual. 1It will be divined from the above that the Guardian of the Threshold there described is an (astral) form, such as is revealed to the awakened higher sight of the occult student, and it is to this superphysical “meeting” that occult science conducts. It is one of the lesser magical performances to make the Guardian of the Threshold visible an the physical plane also. To make this possible it is necessary to produce a cloud of smoke, consisting of fine substances, by means of some frankincense which is composed of a number of ingredients in a particular commixture. The developed power of the magician is then able to mould the smoke into shape and to animate its substance with the still unbalanced Karma of the individual. He who is sufficiently prepared for the higher vision no longer requires this phenomenal sight, while he who sees his still unbalanced Karma, without adequate preparation, as a visible living creature before his eyes, exposes himself to the greatest danger of falling into evil byways. The Guardian of the Threshold has been romantically depicted by Bulwer Lytton in Zanoni. The Guardian will warn him not to go further if he does not feel in himself the power necessary for the fulfilment of those demands which have been set forth in the preceding speech. Although the form of the Guardian is so frightful, it is yet nothing but the effect of the student's own past lives, his own character, risen out of him into an independent life. This awakening is brought about by the mutual separation of the volitions, the thoughts, and the feelings. It is an experience of the deepest significance when one feels for the first time that one has produced a spiritual being. The next thing to be aimed at is the preparation of the occult student so that he can endure the terrible sight without a vestige of timidity, and at the moment of the meeting really feel his power to be so increased that he can take it upon himself to effect with full realization the glorifying of the Guardian.

A result of this meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold, if successful, is that the next physical death of the student is an event entirely different from what death was before. He consciously goes through the death whereby he lays aside the physical body, as he lays aside an outworn garment or one that is grown useless an account of a sudden rent. This — his physical death — is now only an important fact, as it were, to those who have lived with him, whose perceptions are still restricted to the world of the senses. For them the occult student “dies,” but for himself nothing of importance in his whole environment is changed. The entire superphysical world into which he steps already stood open to him before death, and it is the same world that after death confronts him.

Now, the Guardian of the Threshold is also connected with other matters. The individual belongs to a family, a nation, a race. His deeds in this world depend upon his relationship to this greater unit. His individual character is likewise connected with it. The conscious deeds of a single person are by no means the sum of all he must reckon with in respect of his family, stock, nation, and race. There is a destiny, as there is a character, pertaining to the family or the race or the nation. For the person who is restricted to his senses these things remain as general ideas, and the materialistic thinker will regard the occult scientist contemptuously when he hears that for the latter the family or national character, the lineal or racial destiny, becomes just as real a being as the personality which is produced by the character and destiny of the individual. The occultist comes to know of higher worlds in which the separated personalities are discerned as members, like the arms, legs, and head of an individual; and in the life of a family, of a nation, or a race, he sees at work not only the separate individuals, but also the very real souls of the family, nation, or race. Indeed, in a certain sense, the separate individuals are only the executive organs of this family or racial spirit. In truth, one can say that the soul of a nation, for example, makes use of an individual belonging to that nation, for the execution of certain deeds. The national soul does not descend to sensible reality. It dwells in higher worlds, and in order to work in the physical world makes use of the physical organs of a particular person. In a higher sense it is as when an architect makes use of a workman for executing the details of a building. Every person gets his work assigned him, in the truest sense of the words, by the soul of the family, the nation, or the race. Now the ordinary person is by no means initiated into the higher scheme of his work. He works unconsciously toward the goal of the nation or race. From the moment when the occult student meets the Guardian of the Threshold, he has not merely to discern his own tasks as a personality, but must also work consciously at those of his nation or his race. Every, extension of his horizon implies an extension of his duties. As a matter of fact, the occult student joins a new Body to those finer vehicles of his soul. He puts on another garment. Hitherto he went through the world with those coverings which clothed his personality. That which he must accomplish for his community, his nation, or his race, is managed by the higher spirits which utilize his personality. A further revelation which is now made to him by the Guardian is that henceforth these spirits will withdraw their hands from him. He must get quite clear of that union. Now, if he did not develop in himself those powers which pertain to the national or racial spirits, he would completely harden himself as a separate creature and would rush upon his own destruction. Doubtless there are many people who would say, “Oh! I have entirely freed myself from all lineal or racial connections; I only want to be man and nothing but man.” To these one must reply, “Who, then, brought you to this freedom? Was it not your family who gave you that position in the world where you now stand? Was it not your ancestry, your nation, your race, that have made you what you are? They have brought you up; and if you are now exalted above all prejudices, if you are one of the light-bringers and benefactors of your Clan, or even of your race, you owe that to their education. Indeed, when you say of yourself that you are nothing as a person, you owe the very fact that you have so become to the spirit of your community.” Only the occult student learns what it means to be cut off entirely from the family, the Clan, or the racial spirit. He alone realizes the insignificance of all such education in respect of the life which now confronts him, for everything that has gathered around him falls utterly away when the threads that bind the will, the thoughts, and the feelings are sundered. He looks back on all the events of his previous education as one must regard a house of which the stones have fallen apart in pieces and which one must therefore build up again in a new form.

It is more than merely a figure of speech to say that after the Guardian of the Threshold has uttered \ his first communications, there rises up from the place where he stands a great whirlwind, which extinguishes all those lights of the spirit which had hitherto illumined the pathway of life. At the same time an utter blackness engulfs the student. It is only broken a little by the rays that stream forth from the Guardian of the Threshold, and out of that darkness resound his last admonitions:—“Step not across my threshold before you are assured that you can illuminate the blackness by yourself : take not a single step forward unless you are certain that you have a sufficiency of oil in your lamp. The lamps of the guides which hitherto you have followed will now, in the future, be absent.” After there words the student has to turn round and direct his gaze back-ward. The Guardian of the Threshold now draws away a veil that before had hidden deep secrets. The lineal, the national, the racial spirits are revealed in their complete reality, and the student now sees clearly how he had been guided so far, but it also dawns upon him that henceforth he will have no such guidance. This is a second warning received at the threshold from its guardian.

No one can attain to this vision unprepared; but the higher training, which generally makes it possible for a person to press an to the threshold, puts him simultaneously in a position to find at the right moment the necessary power. Indeed, this training is of so harmonious a kind, that the entrance into the new life can be made to lose its exciting and tumultuous character. The experience at the threshold is, for the occult student, attended by a foreshadowing of that bliss which is to form the keynote of his newly awakened life. The sensation of a new freedom will outweigh all other feelings; and together with this sensation the new duties and the new responsibilities will seem as something which must needs be undertaken by a person at a particular stage in his life.

Support Our Services

The Archive is a "pay what you can" service. If you or your organization use and value our work, please consider making a financial contribution. Visit our Help Out page for additional ways to support us. Thank you!

Please Donate!