The Method of the Threshold
The Method of the Threshold (of the Hypogeum), is an ancient and curious practice frequently referenced throughout Quatrian myth and literature.
The method is said to be a liminal technique using the imagination to access and explore extra-sensory information about a subject. It draws from, is akin to, and supplements practices and experiential states such as meditation, artistic creation, visualization, intuition, active imagination, fantasy, and hypnagogia.
The method is not itself concerned with interpreting, defining, or judging the meaning, origin, or reality-status of the images or experiences one might encounter while experimenting with the technique. It is suggested instead that the effectiveness of the method is actually enhanced by temporarily putting those types of questions or determinations aside (e.g., suspension of disbelief) during the practice itself, and simply accepting the validity of personal internal states perceived as ‘experientially real’ in the moment.
Though the method may be undertaken in a religious or spiritual context, there was no such concept in Ancient Quatrian culture. Though their cosmology spoke of many over-lapping worlds, their language made at no point in their long history any distinction between the “real world” and the so-called “spirit world.” Thus, discussion of method-induced liminal experiences in such terms is avoided herein, as alien to the original intent.
Whereas meditation typically involves emptying one’s conscious mind, and emphasizes not clinging to the images or thoughts encountered in one’s inward awareness, the method proposes there may be value in taking an opposite approach to the imaginal world.
According to the Quatrian cosmological world-view, in which visionary experience played a central part, what is perceived via the outward sense organs may have equal experiential validity or potency to the perceiver as what may be experienced inwardly through the processes and landscapes of fantasy, imagination, intuition, projection, or even hallucination. A dream, for instance, of meeting a deceased ancestor was considered equivalent in importance to waking conversations with the living.
The Bidden Image & The Threshold
Though there are a range of specific components which comprise the overall method, which will be described in more detail in later chapters, there are two common elements to all (or most), called herein the Bidden and Unbidden Images, of which the former shall be treated first.
The Bidden Image is most akin to a kind of inward visualization. The practitioner holds before their mind’s eye an image of some kind of threshold, as in a door, or window, or the passage into an ornately decorated stone temple such as the Hypogeum itself. The threshold, or Bidden Image, chosen may be unique to a practitioner, or might be shared amongst members of a family, tribe, sect, or cult.
As Edwin Palmer’s pivotal 1908 text on the topic reads:
“The Cuatrian would lie on his back and picture an Opening to a Dark place. Each person’s entrance was different; Chiara herself envisioned a cave, but the imagining could be a temple, a closet, a ‘fairy house,’ or a fountain. As long as the opening leads below the surface of the world, it is acceptable.”
The Unbidden Images
Though Palmer famously described other optional components to the ritual, such as the hearing of a ringing sound in the ears, or use of an inwardly repeated word, or ‘mantra,’ they are considered by most serious Quatrian scholars today as secondary to the central experience of the images themselves.
Following the initial invocation of the Bidden Image, the practitioner should subsequently attempt to “open” or “pass through” the inwardly visualized threshold to the “other side,” and “see what happens.”
Great emphasis is placed in Quatrian culture on the virtues of patience. It is said that successful practice of the method required it first and foremost. There was a term in Ancient Quatrian, “Dagdanna Dorin,” the translation of which, by later Pentarc mythographers, as “courting inspiration,” is the most common. The literal meaning, however, is, “The Stones Wish.” Taken poetically, one might consider the slow, imperceptibly moving pace of life lived on a geological time-scale, as perceived from the point of view of the animate or sentient stones themselves, and the patience with which they might make and wait for the fulfillment of a wish.
Therefore, with the patience of a stone, once the practitioner has passed through the threshold, they must wait for the arrival of the Unbidden Images. For some, the Unbidden Images may arrive almost immediately upon crossing the threshold. For others, they may only arrive after a long while, or even after multiple experimental sessions. However, a general rule of thumb is that the best way to speed the arrival of the Unbidden Images is to attempt to hold on to the Bidden Image. That is, due to the fluid nature of the mind, it is natural that the Bidden Image will soon be swept away or replaced by others.
Holding onto any single inward image for any length of time is difficult, as well as being an interesting skill to develop independently of use of the method. Holding the Bidden Image within the context of the method, however, is only useful insofar as it speeds the arrival of the Unbidden Images. As soon as the practitioner is presented with any Unbidden Image, they should follow it, taking careful mental note of the precise details, appearances, and behaviors of any images, objects, locations, persons, or other entities which one may encounter.
Concluding The Session & Recording The Images
It is recommended in the ancient texts that the method not be under-taken for more than fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, due to its similarity to the hypnagogic state, and the mind’s natural propensity at this time to “fall asleep.” It is also suggested by some, that if undertaken properly, the method may also be used to induce so-called ‘lucid dreams,’ but this is outside of the true purpose or ambit of the method-proper.
Contemporary practitioners should consider use of a “timer,” or, if available, a sundial connected to a photo-sensitive mechanism connected to a series of hinged platforms and pulleys which would “splash water” from a drinking vessel onto the face of the practitioner on completion of the session, waking them from slumber.
On completion of the session, by whatever means, the practitioner should promptly “write down” as full an account of the details of the experiences they had while in session as possible. It is further recommended that session accounts be kept together in a sort of log, journal, diary, atlas, or almanack. Over time and through repeated use of the method, practitioners have reported “interesting patterns” emerging, which will be discussed at length in subsequent installments.