The concept of thresholds is unfamiliar territory to most of us—but, as I pointed out in the introductory episode, many people have an instinctive fear as they approach one. Often the sudden onset of fear is inexplicable and their resultant behaviour makes no sense—even to themselves.

On a prayer trek across high country, a couple of hikers had almost arrived at the shelter where they’d planned to stay overnight when the weather changed suddenly. A light flurry of snow began to cover the path. Instead of hurrying on, one of the hikers simply lay down in a hollow, ready to die.

Triggered by a threshold symbol—the formation of snow—his heart’s beliefs could not be overridden by his mind, nor by the urgent coaxing of his companion. Eventually the other hiker was able to get help to rescue him.

We can often be puzzled by those times in our lives when our own behaviour is out-of-character and reaches the point of life-threatening. But, like the man who went to a job interview for a position he believed was his life’s calling and drove the entire way on the wrong side of the road, there is nothing irrational about our actions at all.

Our hearts inform our minds that thresholds are dangerous and deadly—and a lot of us simply want the worst over and done with as quickly as possible. So we try to make that happen. Our hearts have recognised threshold symbols that elude our minds completely and so we baulk at a last step, as the colleague I spoke about in the previous session did. Or we can hesitate at a first step, at a boundary, a frontier, a shoreline, a gateway, a door or a bridge. It’s said that Tsar Peter the Great of Russia wailed like a baby whenever he had to cross bridges. And it’s also said that Doctor Samuel Johnson, the distinguished man of letters, would never enter a room with his left foot first. If he did so by accident, he backed up, and re-entered it with his right one. These seem like phobias and superstitions but, behind them, is a very significant spiritual reality.

A threshold marks a transition—it can be natural or artificial, physical or spiritual. There are transitional spaces, times and states. In this series, I will use the idea of a spiritual threshold in the limited sense of crossing over into our calling. Just as the threshold of a doorway forms the boundary between inside and outside, so the threshold into our calling is the boundary between the fulfilment of our destiny, and a life of frustration and what Thoreau called ‘quiet desperation’.

Spiritually, the threshold into our calling is watched by threshold guardians. These fallen angelic entities are powerful and unrelentingly hostile towards us. They have authority to test us. And our failure to honour that authority results in spiritual, emotional and physical retaliation.

Thank you to Lorna Skinner of for the background music.