In the Western Magical/Mystery Tradition (WMT) there is a traditional demon called The Dweller on the Threshold. It’s this big scary monster that sits at the door of magic, and blocks the way. It’s got huge teeth and big horns and giant claws for hands, and its swings spread from doorpost to doorpost, and its goat-head and satyr-legs fill the doorway. And its constant refrain is, “this far and no farther. Turn back. This path is not for you.”
And this demon, this Threshold Guardian, is there to warn everyone away from the Work.
I find that every time I do Tai Chi, the threshold guardian manifests in a different way. He says things like, “oh, you’ve lost your count. Oh, you’ve reached eight… that tai chi master you met yesterday only does eight repetitions; you’ve done that. Go on. Give up part of your practice for the sake of doing it that other way. Oh, that set wasn’t very good.”
The threshold guardian manifests every day I do this work. Every day. The nice thing that the Western Magical Tradition says about this Dweller on the Threshold, though, is that he has no power. He is utterly without capability to do anything except mutter at you and criticize your work, and tell you to stop or turn back. That’s his only power, despite his fearsome shape and dreadful appearance, and his association in demonic lore with the Devil himself.
But that is a devil’s power, of course — to tell us to turn back, that we’re neither good enough nor strong enough to continue. And it keeps us in weakness and incapacity until we are unwilling or unable to do anything at all.
As I say, this voice manifests in my work every morning, telling me to stop or even not to start. I can tell how good or how bad a day it will be based on how long it takes to quiet down, and how long it takes for the voice to shut up and recede in the distance, lost behind me as I do the work. Some days, the voice doesn’t vanish until I’m well into the first form; sometimes it shuts up right away.
Today, it began yammering at me to stop doing tai chi already, and kept it up all the way through. “You should just stop now! Oh, you’re done? Ok, well… I’ll go bother someone else now.”
I find that it’s highly helpful to think of this voice as a demon, rather than a unhelpful monologue in my own head. It makes it easier to sweep it away, and ignore its advice. On the other hand, if it is really a demon, I’m sorry if my demon has gone off to bother you. But at the same time, I promise you that this particular demon does not follow through on any of its vague threats. Its only power is to deceive you into not doing hard work… and hard work precedes excellence. Push past the Dweller on the Threshold, no matter how long it takes you. The real rewards are not found in following his advice.