The Guardian of the Portal

My last dream of 2011 and my first dream of 2012 involved the figure of the guardian of the portal.

I'm not sure I've read much on Jung or Jungians talking about this archetypal image nor I'm not that versed in mythology (yet) so I don't know how to understand this figure.

At first I thought about the psychopomp, but the guardian just guards the portal, it has nothing to do with mediation or movement between cs and ics.

So how should I begin to understand it? Where to look?


You need to be a member of Depth Psychology Alliance to add comments!

Join Depth Psychology Alliance

Email me when people reply –


    • While this is a wonderful survey of "ambivalence" in various gods, it doesn't mention human consciousness. Early Egyptian myths also describe the human psyche as a place where the opposites not only threaten to separate, but where humans have the unique possibility integrate or create a transcendent third, the teritum; thus, resolving this complex of opposites. This was best described as the goal of the alchemical opus. In our everyday experience, we either labor under the threat of holding the opposites together, or, as in the work of individuation, we consciously try to "heat up" the opposites with consciousness in hopes of transformation. In everyday life: "While one door closes, another opens,'s hell being in the hallway!"

      • Almost exactly twenty-seven years ago, in  Zurich, I was given permission to take the Propadeuticum after 3 years of training at the Jung Institute. I attended the required colloquia, my papers were approved, I had satisfied all of the requirements, and both of my analysts were positive about the move. I was looking forward to taking the examinations 

        A month before the testing period was to begin, I was called before my Selection Committee, who informed me that they were rescinding permission for me to sit for the examinations on the grounds that [quote] I am "so gifted as an artist that I owe it to the world to paint." They told me to go and paint for two years, and then if I wanted to come back, I could reapply for the examinations.

        Their decision meant that my student loans came immediately due and payable, so for several years afterwards, I couldn't have purchased a tube of paint if my life depended it. But after putting my children through college and repaying my loans, I asked for an explanation of what had gone on. One analyst said that he thought that I wanted to be an artist because I had been selling my artwork, and the head of the committee told me that it was nothing personal, they had "merely acted the Cerberus."


        When I think of a "Guardian of the Portal," I remember those three analysts with something less than love in my heart. If I had wanted to become an artist, I would applied to the Kunstgewerbeschule, not the C.G. Jung Institute~

        • I have had similar experiences with so-called and self-appointed guardians at the gate.  This makes me think of why Jung did not allow his Red Book to be published.  The establishment would have discredited his scholarship and demoted him from the ranks of the "accredited." 

          How do we become walkers between these worlds?  Just because a manifest guardian at the gate denies me literal entrance doesn't, to my mind, mean I've been denied entrance in the true realms.  This is a rather puzzling dilemna.  For example, Jesus was not "accredited."  The rabbis denied him entrance also.

        • Wow.  That's horrendous. Unbelievable hubris on their part.

        • That's a horrifying story. Their ego-inflation led them to believe that they could judge a person better than she could do herself, together with her analysts. Artistic talent is widespread in the population, but it is instinct that should guide one's path in life, not talent. You have to have the instinct for it. This is what creates devotedness and the capacity for hard work. As long as a person has this capacity, then he/she can reach far. Henri Matisse said that he lacked talent, especially in drawing. But instinctually, the artistic path hit the mark. From then on he had recourse to a river of energy that threatened to overwhelm him. He risked working himself to death, so he must try to have a day of rest each week, a pledge which he was unable to hold. Of course, since he worked so hard, he became the finest draughtsman, although he lacked the talent for it.

          So talent is not so central. My best subject in school was always drawing, but I never thought of becoming an artist. To paint all day would be impossible for me because I have a strong urge to understand what I am doing. I am an intellectual, much like the Greek nature philosophers - that's where my instinctual focus lies. To understand the world and human nature, to solve problems, this whets my appetite. Had I chosen to become an artist, I would have become neurotic, because I'd have to repress my instinct to understand things and to theorize, in order to give free rein to artistic intuition. I would have become split against myself. I am less talented as an intellectual than as an artist, but my instincts clearly favour the intellectual side.

          People who choose the therapeutic profession often have a strong relational urge, a strong instinct to help people. It's the natural instinct of love, as it were. This is the ideal condition for the therapeutic profession, because their instinctual focus is just right. Instinctually, they are healers and medicine-men. Whether they have succeeded in the theoretical training is less important. To remove a person from this path on the grounds that she has artistic talent, is among the stupidest things I've heard. Homo sapiens is a complicated creature that can have many talents, but the individual has no other choice than to ride on the tidal wave of instinct, regardless of talent. If there was a way of deciding whether a student has the "healer instinct", that would be a much better criterion than whether he/she has talent or study success.

          Arguably, many people in the modern world become neurotic because they have chosen a profession not in accordance with their instincts. For instance, if a person has the knack for memorizing facts, then he/she can go through almost any education, and become a doctor, too, although he/she lacks the instinct for it. Arguably, our modern educational system, which doesn't take heed of a person's inner destiny, what includes the strong directionality of instinct, fabricates neurosis. The result is that we get a lot of neurotics on the wrong positions in society. That Selection Committee is a case in point. Such people have a pronounced destructive impact in society. By having quenched their own instincts they have created a warped life. On account of this they have an urge to destroy other peoples lives, in accordance with the principle of vicarious suffering. In this manner they transfer their own suffering onto the victim, what is known as the transfer of sin. A powerful position in a Selection Committee is perfect for such people. That's why we often see neurotics at such positions. 

          Mats Winther

      • The conscious function is involved when a god is realized in materiality, e.g. the way in which Mars is reduced to martial, Jove to jovial, etc. I think the the degree of conscious involvement is a critical issue. The increase of consciousness also means the death of the gods. Their demise brings consciousness (fire) to mankind. Thus, something valuable is gained, but something wonderful is also lost. As adults, we have managed to leave behind the naivete and unconsciousness of childhood. But something very valuable was lost when fantasy was abandoned for the benefit of a stable ego consciousness.

        Arguably, conscious expansion is not always of the good. At some stage one must turn back, in order to become naive and unconscious as a child again. This is the nigredo of the alchemists. Much like the scorching sun in the desert, a strong light of consciousness kills the unconscious life process. So the light intensity must abate to allow the right life-conditions in the unconscious. The alchemists say that the vessel should be exposed to mild heat. The light of the moon is proper, but direct sunlight is too strong.

        As a besides, Satan is interesting from an alchemical perspective due to a correspondence. I pointed out that Mercurius is duplex. Satan is also duplex: (1) Lucifer, the most beautiful of all angelic beings (the bringer of light, like Prometheus), and (2) the serpent in paradise. The conception of Satan in Christian history emphasizes the dangerous and wicked serpent aspect. But Madame Blavatsky underscored the light-bringer aspect of Satan. So it's like there is a certain correspondence between these two gods. However, Satan is situated in the overall divine drama, while Mercurius seems to represent the very same principle on the human level(?).

        Mats Winther

        • Gods don't truly die, they transform into archetypes or worse, disease. Humans have the capacity to transmute archetypal energy so that darkness isn't standing behind sol, creating vanity, arrogance and self-righteousness, but rather a coniunctio that is neither light nor dark (Mercurius). It isn't a matter of regaining paradise lost, the innocence of childhood. More importantly, it is how we transform let's say a child's impulsive nature into a splendid mature form of spontaneity.  Lucifer is the "light bringer" who would not bow before humans but instead swore that he'd return to heaven. And, isn't this the challenge: to return to heaven having experienced and mastered the earthly darkness of time. Lest we forget it was that heroic god Hercules who freed Prometheus from his chains by first killing the eagle.9142895080?profile=original

  • A quick visit to the digital oracle (Google) took me here: and this link reminded me that I have Vogler's book "The Writer's Journey", so I picked it up and started to swiftly shuffle its pages until I halted after noticing a very enticing image, it happened to be the opening image of the Threshold Guardian chapter. :)


    "I for one, have an idea that he -will never bring this journey off..."

    — The Odyssey of Homer

    All heroes encounter obstacles on the road to adventure. At each gateway to a new world there are powerful guardians at the threshold, placed to keep the unworthy from entering. They present a menacing face to the hero, but if properly understood, they can be overcome, bypassed, or even turned into allies. Many heroes (and many writers) encounter Threshold Guardians, and understanding their nature can help determine how to handle them.

    Threshold Guardians are usually not the main villains or antagonists in stories. Often they will be lieutenants of the villain, lesser thugs or mercenaries hired to guard access to the chiefs headquarters. They may also be neutral figures who are simply part of the landscape of the Special World. In rare cases they may be secret helpers placed in the hero's path to test her willingness and skill.

    There is often a symbiotic relationship between a villain and a Threshold Guardian. In nature, a powerful animal such as a bear will sometimes tolerate a smaller animal such as a fox nesting at the entrance of its lair. The fox, with its strong smell and sharp teeth, tends to keep other animals from wandering into the cave while the bear is sleeping. The fox also serves as an early warning system for the bear by making a racket if something tries to enter the cave. In similar fashion, villains of stories often rely on underlings such as doorkeepers, bouncers, bodyguards, sentries, gunslingers, or mercenaries to protect and warn them when a hero approaches the Threshold of the villain's stronghold.


    These Guardians may represent the ordinary obstacles we all face in the world around us: bad weather, bad luck, prejudice, oppression, or hostile people like the waitress who refuses to grant Jack Nicholson's simple request in Five Easy Pieces. But on a deeper psychological level they stand for our internal demons: the neuroses, emotional scars, vices, dependencies, and self-limitations that hold back our growth and progress. It seems that every time you try to make a major change in your life, these inner demons rise up to their full force, not necessarily to stop you, but to test if you are really determined to accept the challenge of change.


    Testing of the hero is the primary dramatic function of the Threshold Guardian. When heroes confront one of these figures, they must solve a puzzle or pass a test. Like the Sphinx who presents Oedipus with a riddle before he can continue his journey, Threshold Guardians challenge and test heroes on the path.

    How to deal with these apparent obstacles? Heroes have a range of options. They can turn around and run, attack the opponent head-on, use craft or deceit to get by, bribe or appease the Guardian, or make an Ally of a presumed enemy. (Heroes are aided by a variety of archetypes known collectively as Allies, which will be discussed in a separate chapter.)

    One of the most effective ways of dealing with a Threshold Guardian is to "get into the skin" of the opponent, like a hunter entering into the mind of a stalked animal. The Plains Indians wore buffalo skins to sneak within bow-shot of the bison herd. The hero may get past a Threshold Guardian by entering into its spirit or taking on its appearance. A good example is in Act Two of The Wizard of Oz, when the Tin Woodsman, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow come to the Wicked Witch's casde to rescue the kidnapped Dorothy. The situation looks bleak. Dorothy's inside a strong casde defended by a regiment of fierce-looking soldiers who march up and down singing "Oh-Ee-Oh." There's no possible way for the three friends to defeat such a large force.

    However, our heroes are ambushed by three sentries and overcome them, taking their uniforms and weapons. Disguised as soldiers, they join the end of a column and march right into the castle. They have turned an attack to their advantage by literally climbing into the skins of their opponents. Instead of uselessly trying to defeat a superior enemy, they have temporarily become the enemy.

    It's important for a hero to recognize and acknowledge these figures as Threshold Guardians. In daily life, you have probably encountered resistance when you try to make a positive change in your life. People around you, even those who love you, are often reluctant to see you change. They are used to your neuroses and have found ways to benefit from them. The idea of your changing may threaten them. If they resist you, it's important to realize they are simply functioning as Threshold Guardians, testing you to see if you are really resolved to change.


    Successful heroes learn to recognize Threshold Guardians not as threatening enemies, but as useful Allies and early indicators that new power or success is coming. Threshold Guardians who appear to be attacking may in fact be doing the hero a huge favor.

    Heroes also learn to recognize resistance as a source of strength. As in bodybuilding, the greater the resistance, the greater the strength. Rather than attacking the power of Threshold Guardians head-on, heroes learn to use it so it doesn't harm them. In fact it makes them stronger. The martial arts teach that an opponent's strength can be used against him. Ideally, Threshold Guardians are not to be defeated but incorporated (literally, taken into the body). Heroes learn the Guardians' tricks, absorb them, and go on. Ultimately, fully evolved heroes feel compassion for their apparent enemies and transcend rather than destroy them.

    Heroes must learn to read the signals of their Threshold Guardians. In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell illustrated this idea beautifully with an example from Japan. Ferocious-looking demon statues sometimes guard the entrances to Japanese temples. The first thing you notice is one hand held up like that of a policeman gesturing "Stop!" But when you look more closely, you see that the other hand invites you to enter. The message is: Those who are put off by outward appearances cannot enter the Special World, but those who can see past surface impressions to the inner reality are welcome.


    In stories, Threshold Guardians take on a fantastic array of forms. They may be border guards, sentinels, night watchmen, lookouts, bodyguards, bandidos, editors, doormen, bouncers, entrance examiners, or anyone whose function is to temporarily block the way of the hero and test her powers. The energy of the Threshold Guardian may not be embodied as a character, but may be found as a prop, architectural feature, animal, or force of nature that blocks and tests the hero. Learning how to deal with Threshold Guardians is one of the major tests of the Hero's Journey.


This reply was deleted.