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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Dweller on the Threshold

A term coined by Bulwer Lytton in his novel Zanoni that refers to an invisible malevolent entity that attaches to and influences a particular person. Helena P. Blavatsky defined them as “maleficent astral Doubles of defunct persons” (TG). The Dweller is actually the astral shell of the same individual in a previous incarnation. The personality during that earlier incarnation may have been so strong, but selfish or materialistic, that its animal life had not worn itself out yet. It may incarnate itself a number of times with the parent Ego or Causal Body. There may come a point however when the parent Ego acquires a new personality and no longer uses the old astral shell, which still has animal life in it. The latter, however, is still drawn to the parent Ego and becomes a malevolent influence. This is the “Dweller of the Threshold” (see CW XII:636-637). Blavatsky wrote that Robert L. Stevenson’s story Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is but another allegory of the same true phenomenon.

The Mahatma Letters refers to the actual case of Stainton MOSES, the famous medium, who was tormented by Dwellers. In September 1875, Moses asked Madame Blavatsky whether Bulwer Lytton had eaten underdone pork chops and dreaming when he wrote about the Dweller. Blavatsky replied: “Make yourself ready,” she answered, “in about twelve months more you will have to face and fight with them.” In October 1876, they predicted event happened. Moses wrote: “I am fighting” a hand to hand battle with all the legions of the Fiend for the past three weeks. My nights are made hideous with their torments, temptations and foul suggestions. I see them all around, glaring at me, gabbling, howling, grinning! Every form of filthy suggestion, of bewildering doubt, of mad and shuddering fear is upon me . . . I can understand Zanoni’s Dweller now . . . I have not wavered yet . . . and their temptations are fainter, the presence less near, the horror less . . .” (ML, p. 61).

Annie Besant, in her Introduction to Yoga (1913), describes the Dweller in an expanded context. She says that there are many kinds of Dwellers. The first are the ELEMENTALS. They try to bar individuals in the astral plane because of the destructive tendencies of human beings. The second are the evil thought-forms of our own past. The third, the most terrible of all, is the one described by Blavatsky: the remnant astral and mental bodies of a previous incarnation that attaches itself to the new astral and mental bodies of the current life.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Blavatsky, H. P. Collected Writings, Vol. XII. Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. Manila: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993. Besant, Annie. An Introduction to Yoga. Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1913. Buddhaghosa, B. The Path to Purification (Visuddhimagga). London: Shambhala.

V.H.C./P.S.H.

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